19 Sep, 2009

London’s Design Museum to move to Kensington

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

Council gives the go-ahead for the museum to move into the former Commonwealth Institute building

Plans for London’s Design Museum to leave its riverside location by Tower Bridge and head about six miles west to Kensington have moved a step closer.

Kensington and Chelsea council’s planning committee has approved plans drawn up by one of the world’s most innovative architectural practices, Rem Koolhaas’s Office for Metropolitan Architecture, for the museum to take over the former Commonwealth Institute building on Kensington High Street. Koolhaas is one of architecture’s superstars, responsible for critically acclaimed and always ultra-modern buildings such as the 234 -metre-high CCTV Tower in Beijing and Seattle public library.

While everyone would generally agree that the museum currently enjoys an enviable location on the Thames in a striking modernist-style building (once used as a warehouse for bananas), many feel that the building is just too small.

The new site is expected to offer three times more space and the opportunity to get the permanent collection out of storage and on display. Deyan Sudjic, the Design Museum’s director, said: “We are thrilled with the outcome, which now opens the way for the Design Museum to realise its vision of becoming a world-leading creative centre for design and architecture.”

The Commonwealth Institute building, with its distinctive green parabolic roof and turquoise glass walls, opened in 1962 but has been left pretty much unoccupied since 2001. The developers of the site – who are also building luxury housing – are proposing to contribute £20m for the restoration needed to allow the Design Museum to move in, as well as offering a long-term peppercorn rent.

For the Design Museum – which hopes to double its visitor numbers to about 400,000 a year – it marks the end of a search for a new home which has seen it investigate Potters Field next to City Hall, as well as the possibility of moving into Tate Modern. While English Heritage officially have the final say in approving the plans – they meet next week – a proposed move date is still some way off, with 2013 being pencilled in by the Design Museum.

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