So what's it like? That's what I've been thinking since The Design Museum opened at it's new home in the former Commonwealth Institute on Kensington High Street. After a failed attempt to get in on Saturday (they were queuing out of the door. Seriously don't try to go there on the weekend yet) I got my first look today.....
With the re-design by architect John Pawson of the building, which features a hyperbolic paraboloid roof (translation: it's a very exciting shape), of course I was expecting minimal but the place is also very subdued with low level lighting and a softer palette of colours (as opposed to a crisp minimal white).
The obvious star of the show was the foyer/atrium but this is at the expense of the exhibits being exiled to the sides and basement leaving an entire mezzanine floor empty making it feel more like a John Pawson meditative space than an exciting museum bursting with interesting design pieces. The permanent collection is stuffed in on one side of the top floor with a (fully booked at lunchtime) restaurant shoe-horned in on the other. Unfortunately, the more accessible cafe on the ground floor is tiny and I think that the seating on the central staircase ruins its grandeur.
So what did I like? The Sackler Library, which is open to the public and contains hundreds of design books is definitely worth a visit as here the simplistic space works well and you could spend hours perusing the design tomes and magazines. The members bar is cosier, smart and well furnished and I could happily spend more time here too (for £65) and whilst it's not a museum purely for interior design, I felt that they'd awarded a fair amount of space to it, so of course I liked that.
Finally the annual 'Beazley Designs of the Year' exhibition is great with masses of fantastic and ingenious creations, with my favourite candidate, Dreamland in Margate, being the public vote fave so far.
So in summary, the building is a larger and calmer backdrop for the displays but for a museum with the chance to expand they certainly haven't maximise on the square footage they have. Still, do go there and see for yourself.
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