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Inside the new Design Museum4 min read

The Design Museum has recently (on 24 November 2016) moved from South Bank to the Kensington area. One of the reasons for the move was space. By moving to the building that used to house the Commonwealth Institute, the museum gets more space (3 times more actually). We wanted to see what the new museum has to offer and how it compares to the one that used to be located on the River Thames near Tower Bridge.

What has changed?

The new Design Museum is original in its concept. It’s not all about beautifully designed objects. There is also an emphasis on stories, concepts and thoughts.
Unlike other London museums, this one is spacious and you don’t feel like you will bump into someone every 2 seconds (at least not on every floor). This is in big part due to the minimalist approach that was used to build it, which means space has not just been filled in.
The entrance is free for the permanent collection display (called Designer Maker User) but there is a fee for the special exhibitions.

The massive board changes its text to reflect the theme of the permanent exhibition – Designer, Maker, User

The new museum has several floors:

  • two lower levels where temporary exhibitions can take place. On one of these levels, you will find the Bakala Auditorium which is absolutely beautiful. This is a place where talks and seminars take place and the way it has been done really makes you want to take part in those events
  • a ground floor where temporary exhibitions can also take place
  • a 1st floor where the design and architecture libraries are located. These will be used by students, designers, educators and researchers. On the 1st floor there are also other learning facilities such as: the Design Studio, seminar room, Creative Workshop etc.
  • a top floor, where the permanent display (Designer Maker User) is located. On that floor, you will also find a restaurant (where we had a nice cuppa in designer tea set), a posh member’s lounge where you can savour a bottle of Veuve Clicquot













On the top floor (in the Designer Maker User section), there is a sub section called Work in Progression. If you are the creative type, this is definitely something for you. There, you are invited to step into a designer’s shoe and do some creative problem-solving yourself. You can use the books and materials available for inspiration. After completing the task, and if you’re happy with your work, you can share your design with #WiPDMU. As of the beginning of January 2017 there is no prize to be won but who knows, if you’re interested in a career in design, you could get noticed 🙂

What’s the difference between the old and new building?

As part of her BA in Graphic Design, Sandra visited the Design Museum years ago at its Thames location. Considering it was a design museum, she was not impressed by the building’s boring structure and the way the exhibitions were presented. Let’s put it this way – she didn’t feel as inspired (about Design) as she felt from simply looking at a design book.
The building was white on the outside and inside. The contents of the museum often weren’t inspirational and/or memorable. In fact, one of the main attractions of the old building was that it had a nice view towards the river.
The new building, however, impresses with its shapes and grand-space! There are some clever decisions, like turning part of the stairs into benches (people sit on the steps anyway, why not provide them with a clean soft cushion).

The museum is interesting in its concept. It is a place where you can admire the influence of design through the ages. But it is also a place where you can think about design & new concepts and better understand how important and far reaching this field is. Design is all around us and as one of the exhibitions says it spans from the ‘spoon to the city’ (= design influences everything). Also, it is not just limited to designing a beautiful product to sell more of it. For example, designers thinking skills and talent can be used to improve ethical manufacturing.

Enough rambling… if you visited the museum at its previous location, you might want to visit it again at its new location. We guarantee you it looks nothing like the previous one. And this move could help London achieve its ambition of Design Capital of the World.

P.S.> To get an idea of the brand new Design Museum, see the video below – it’s Julien’s first attempt at video editing with a cool new software we purchased recently 🙂

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