Design Museum in London

From Ford T to iPhone


We can now again visit the Design Museum of London, at its new location. The complex project has taken ten years to carry out in full, and in the virtual absence of public funding, this would probably not have been possible without the determination of the museum’s director, the critic Deyan Sudjic, a regular contributor to this magazine. Tripling the size of the museum’s former home at Shad Thames, which now harbors the archives of the recently demised Zaha Hadid, the new Design Museum rises on what used to be the Commonwealth Institute, built back in 1962. The only part of the institute that has been preserved is the emphatic roof shaped like a hyperbolical paraboloid. Under this enormous awning, the well-known minimalist architect John Pawson has built a pleasant museum with an atrium held together by catwalks, and an extensive collection of objects telling the story of modern design, from the mythical Ford Model T to Tesla’s autonomous cars through the inevitable iPhones. To make the project economically feasible, the museum program is complemented by the construction of three luxury apartment blocks carried out by Rem Koolhaas’s OMA with Allies & Morrison (the local firm which also drew up the masterplan for the whole complex’s change of use). The OMA buildings come across as rather predictable, but they manage to engage in dialogue with the warped forms of the museum’s roof, thus contributing to the hint of a harmony based less on continuity than on contrast.

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