It’s an enormous queue with people of completely different cultural and social background. From wannabe Burberry model and fashionistas to tourists and those who are least likely to be interested in modern arts. All of them came to see the reopening of the world’s leading contemporary design and architecture museum.
Founded in 1989 and originally situated on the riverside near Tower Bridge, the Design Museum has finally found its new home. Before moving to Kensington, it was welcoming the experts from all over the world. Now, a futuristic-looking building, refurbished by British architectural designer John Pawson, opens its doors to Londoners. With a space three times bigger than the previous location, the construction is the first thing to impress you as a visitor.
“So, as you walk in, you actually walk into a building from the 1960s, that has been extensively refurbished, but up above you there is this roof, which is quite spectacular. It’s like a huge wing or as some people have described it as a saddle. In fact, in technical terms, it’s a hyperbolic parabolic roof, one of its kind in the UK,” explains Alice Black, Deputy Director of the Museum.
Under the roof, there is an Atrium, within which you can see all the activities taking place in the Museum. “It’s a sort of multiplex with lots of exhibitions taking place, but also huge festival of activities with hands-on workshops and seminars and talks in our auditorium. There’s a lot to do and you can come here for a cup of coffee”, says Alice, which has personally contributed a lot to the museum’s reopening. Being in charge for the strategic development, she was also leading the project to relocate the Design Museum to West London.
She explains that the museum was largely dedicated to specialists until they’ve realised that actually design should be an interest to everyone: “You don’t need to be a designer to be interested in the world in which you living, design is everywhere around you from the spoons, bowls and kettles and other things that you find every day in your kitchen to the buildings, that you live in and the transport that you use.”
“What’s interesting in design is that it has remained a discipline that is concerned with the material world around us, so designers are designing furniture, tubes trains, logos, and books. But there’s a new dimension in design, which is immaterial and more concerned with user experiences like interface of your phone or gaming, or way-finding systems within cities. So, this is where the discipline becomes more abstract.”
“What we are trying to do here is to show everyone that design concerns them, and that’s the point of our display on the top floor of the Museum”, says Alice. She is talking about the Designer Maker User exhibition, which is free of charge and created for people who’ve never learned anything about design.
“Then”, Alice continues, “having done that introduction, we will take them further along the journey to get them to understand that design addresses big issues of the world in which we live today such as robotics or Brexit. Actually, there is a designer response to this, and this is very much the topic of our exhibition Fear in Love.”
London-based interior designer Marina Begman agrees with the Deputy Director: “I’ve seen the Design Museum in its old place, it was cozy, hidden and kind of exclusive for specialists. I was expecting this transformation, though: design has stepped in our lives, no matter if we notice it. Is it a sweets package or a shopping bag – it’s pretty much everywhere.”
For Marina, design’s first role is not about aesthetics, but about problem solving. “We can see it from the coffee cups: the way they were designed ten years ago and what are they looking like now with all those special perforation preventing from pouring it on yourself and thermic materials.”
“Design is definitely something more than we used to think, as it addresses such global issues as medicine. There’s a start-up of the self-regulating timer for diabetics called Timesulin, which is telling people with this medical condition whether they need an injection. Or a project of Oxygen Backpack, which allows ill people to move more freely. Being, probably, the biggest event in design for this year, the reopening declared the whole new phase in the development of the field. ”
The Design Museum is open daily from 10.00 till 17.45. Tickets for paid exhibitions Fear in Love and Beazley Designs of the Year, which is held for the ninth time and looking at the innovative design of last 12 months, are available on the museum’s website. Apart from Designer Maker User, there is another free show called Designers in Residence, and is dedicated to emerging designers and temporarily presents installations by Rain Wu, Alix Bizet, Clementine Blakemore and Andrea de Chirico.