Preview the new Design Museum in Kensington

New Design Museum © Nargess Banks

‘Our moment has arrived,’ says Sir Terence Conran at the opening of the new Design Museum in London. He urges for governments to understand that design is pivotal to our quality of life, but also central to manufacturing and to industry. ‘I think every manufacturer should have a designer on its team,’ he smiles. ‘We truly want to be international in our approach, and show that design, manufacturing, and business are intertwined, that one cannot survive without the other.’

We are at a preview of the museum’s much anticipated new premises in London’s Kensington. Conran founded the original Design Museum in 1989 in the much more modest Shad Thames site in southeast London, which had outgrown the collection and its aspirations. ‘Moving the Design Museum to Kensington is the most exciting part of my career so far. It will allow us to create a world-class and truly international space for the celebration of design and architecture. It is a cathedral of design.’

3. New Design Museum © Nargess Banks

The £83m scheme took five years to complete. It is a collaborative project too, involving some world-leading architects and engineers including OMA, Allies, and Morrison, and Arup who painstakingly restored the former Grade II listed 1960s Commonwealth Institute’s spectacular concrete roof and distinctive façade.

Inside is the work of John Pawson, who sensitively returned the interior, keeping much of the feel and integrity of the former building. The result is an open, welcoming, and warm space – a peaceful place offering a series of calm, atmospheric areas arranged around an oak-lined atrium. The architect says: ‘You don’t have to knock down the building to build architecture.’

New Design Museum © Nargess Banks


The new Design Museum offers some 10,000 square-meters of gallery space, triple that of Shad Thames, allowing for a permanent display, two temporary exhibitions, and enough space for resident designers, a members’ area, café/restaurant, and shop.


The museum will explore objects past and present but also crucially ideas surrounding creativity and speculative design. ‘Design is a way to understand the world around us,’ explains the museum director Deyan Sudjic. ‘It makes technology work, it’s a reflection of our culture as well as an economic engine. We see the Design Museum as a forum to explore the impact of the rapid changes that design is bringing to society.’

Whilst Conran adds: ‘Design is about optimism, and this friendly space is full of surprises. It is about love rather than fear. I hope we can educate and inspire generations to come.’

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New Design Museum © Nargess Banks
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