For almost 30 years, the Design Museum in London occupied a converted warehouse on the South Bank of the Thames, a compact building with a Bauhaus-inspired aesthetic that chimed with the mission of its founder, Sir Terence Conran: to champion good design for industrial production. Its move to a new home in west London, which opened on November 24, is a moment of reinvention both for the growing institution and for a celebrated modernist landmark that has been transformed by architects OMA, Allies and Morrison, and John Pawson to accommodate it.
With design now a hugely popular—and ever broadening— subject of public interest, the museum aims to triple its visitor numbers to 600,000 people a year, and to foster a deeper understanding of how design thinking can shape social, economic, and physical environments. “It is a museum of ideas rather than things,” as director Deyan Sudjic puts it. The inaugural show, Fear and Love, links design to such subjects of urgent concern as the impact of dating apps, anxiety at the rise of robots, and Britain’s post-Brexit identity. As the museum’s role is to “steer a debate about where design is going, exhibitions must be part of a wider ecosystem of discussions and events,” says chief curator Justin McGuirk. At 100,000 square feet, the new building is three times the size of the old, with spaces for conversation, programs, and hands-on creation as well as exhibitions.