The new Design Museum: more designed to impress than to be a museum

The new London home for the Design Museum, in the former Commonwealth Institute building on the edge of Holland Park, has been praised for the way it has restored the beautiful hyperbolic paraboloid concrete roof. As you enter the building and look up, a spacious and light atrium is dominated by the elegant curves of the roof.

A promising start which, however, is not followed through. For the great use of space and light to give an uplifting first impression is followed up with a cramped space for the new permanent exhibition up on the top floor. Much of the space between the entrance and that cramped area is little used.

It is as if the design priority for the museum has been to make it impressive to look at rather than to function well as a museum space displaying objects. Which is particularly ironic given how much of the content is about how good design improves function.

Note the contrast between the camped, crowded entrance to the exhibition with the spacious and unused spaces on the floor below in the atrium:

Design Museum in Holland Park

Perhaps over time the use of space and layout of the top floor will improve, but so far it’s more a case of being designed to impress than being designed to function as a museum.

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