This month London's Design Museum will officially open its new home on Kensington High Street. The project, which has been redeveloped and designed in collaboration with Rotterdam-based practice OMA and London-based studio Allies & Morrison, has seen a Grade II* Listed Modernist monument sensitively restored into contemporary galleries. For John Pawson—who has been commissioned to create "a series of calm, atmospheric spaces" ordered around a large, oak-lined atrium—this scheme marks his first major public work.
According to the Design Museum's own narrative of the spaces, "visitors [will] find themselves in a central atrium with striking views up to [an] iconic hyperbolic paraboloid roof." Here galleries, learning spaces, a café, an events space and a shop are arranged like an "opencast mine" beneath the building's iconic concrete roof.
Two temporary gallery spaces will display up to seven temporary exhibitions per year. According to the museum, a "double-height basement also features a dedicated museum collection store with a glass window, allowing visitors a behind-the-scenes glimpse of pieces not on display." In addition, a 200-seat Bakala Auditorium will "allow the museum to expand its public programme and evening talks."
"Italian terrazzo flooring is used throughout the basement and ground floors, transitioning to warm-toned Dinesen oak flooring and wall panels on the upper floors. A key element of the Pawson vocabulary, a wooden bench with concealed lighting spans one side of the Weston Mezzanine. The bench sits in front of a series of marble panels conserved from the original building, which before that had previously been installed in the Imperial Institute in 1857."
There are ‘moments’ in the building that I relish every time I walk around, but I think it is really the way everything comes together – the new and the old – that gives me the greatest pleasure. I hope the Design Museum shows people that you don’t have to tear down and start from scratch to make exciting new cultural spaces.