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Six reasons to be excited about London's new Design Museum

Written by
Stephanie Hartman

The Design Museum has crossed town to swanky new digs in Kensington. Put it on your hit list. The roof alone is worth a visit. 

Following the mammoth task of relocating from its home of 27 years in a former banana warehouse in Shad Thames to the old Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington, the Design Museum is finally ready to open its shiny new doors to the world. Here are six reasons why we’re beyond excited.

There's way more space

The main reason for moving was to increase capacity, and that’s exactly what’s been gained with the 1960s modernist building. The superslick interior, designed by John Pawson, has three times the floor space of the old museum, housing three exhibition spaces, a library and archive, a restaurant and café, learning spaces and a designers-in-residence studio. There’s also a very impressive ‘hyperbolic paraboloid’ roof to gawp at – it looks a bit like a giant pointy Pringle.

You can see much more of the permanent collection

Although the Shad Thames location provided idyllic views of the river, its innards didn’t allow the museum’s colossal collection to be on permanent display. Now, the top floor is dedicated to ‘Designer Maker User’, an exhibition packed with important design objects, a crowd-sourced wall and a punchy rotating entrance display created by Studio Myerscough. There’s also a digital reflection experience, aka a futuristic mirror, which you stand in front of to don fashion classics and questionable outfits from decades past. The best news? It’s totally free! 

The ambitious new show is packed with food for thought

Eleven brand new commissions exploring important current issues are housed within the museum’s opening exhibition, ‘Fear and Love: Reactions to a Complex World’. Architecture practice OMA’s piece is a response to the recent Brexit vote, while celebrated fashion designer Hussein Chalayan explores the idea of repressed emotions with slightly scary-sounding wearable devices that detect inner feelings and project them outwards for others to see. There’s also a 1,200kg industrial robot called Mimus that’s been transformed by multidisciplinary designer Madeline Gannon into a creature that can respond to and interact with movements made by visitors.

Designs of the Year is also back, showcasing groundbreaking work across architecture, digital technology, fashion, graphics, transport and product design. It’s always a hotbed of talent and a great chance to see projects the museum thinks will be super-successful. 

Not one but two shops will tempt you

Brimming with beautiful lifestyle products and arranged by colour, the first of the museum’s aesthetically pleasing shops has been open for a couple of months now, doing serious damage to the wallets of all design lovers who enter it. The opening of a second store will double your chances of leaving with stylish stationery, books, homeware and various objects you didn’t know you needed, but can’t do without. 

The public programme is truly inspiring

A visit to the Design Museum should result in you feeling eager to get involved yourself. A public programme of talks and classes helps in that creative quest: monthly Create and Make and Get into Design workshops provide even the youngest budding makers with a platform to test out their ideas and learn from industry experts. 

It's surrounded by other great things to see and do

With the Design Museum’s new neighbourhood you can be assured of a full day of fun. After you’ve had your fill of the DM’s exhibitions, there’s Holland Park to explore and beautiful Leighton House to visit plus Kensington’s cultural quarter including the V&A and Science Museum just a brief bus ride away.

By Stephanie Hartman, who's already spent this month's pay in the Design Museum shop.

Design Museum reopens Thu Nov 24 at 224-238 Kensington High St. High St Kensington. Permanent collection free, temporary exhibitions £14. For full programme details go to

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