The London Design Museum by John Pawson, OMA and Allies and Morrison / by Alex Upton

 London Design Museum Interior by John Pawson. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

London Design Museum Interior by John Pawson. Photography: Copyright © Alex Upton

Location: Kensington High Street, Kensington, London
Developer: Ilchester Estates and the Design Museum
Contractor: Mace
Architect: John Pawson, Allies and Morrison, OMA
Photography Clients: Troldtekt & Abet Laminati

In late 2016 the London Design Museum opened the doors to it’s new premises in Kensington, located just on the periphery of the then autumnal setting of Holland Park. Having outgrown their previous home on the riverside in Shad Thames - now occupied by Zaha Hadid’s architectural practice - they museum opted for the grade II listed former Commonwealth Institute building to become their new home. Having stood unoccupied for a number of years, the building, with its iconic copper roof and parabolic form, provided a perfect shell for the architects to work with, as well as embodying the nuanced design sensibilities which the Design Museum aspired to present to the visiting public through its collections and exhibitions.

 London Design Museum Central Atrium

London Design Museum Central Atrium

A team of several architectural practices were enlisted to work on the project with John Pawson taking responsibility for the Interior space and both OMA and Allies and Morrison handling the refurbishment of the external structure. The extensive works carried out by the contractor Mace and structural engineers Arup, included a significant reconfiguration of the structure and excavation of the basement to increase floor space. To meet modern building standards the external facade had to be completely replaced, while still retaining the blue-glass appearance of the original building.

 The Permanent Exhibition Space on the Upper Level

The Permanent Exhibition Space on the Upper Level

Over a year after its initial opening I was commissioned by the client Troldtekt in the Spring of 2018 to photograph the London Design Museums Interior spaces; public viewing galleries, paid exhibition areas, library and research facilities and office space. Upon entering the building the first thing that greets your vision is the vast atrium which rises 4-stories and is capped by the amazing parabolic roof structure. Displays adorn the natural wooden walls, staircases and corridors emerge connecting the various levels of public exhibition space, while those heading to the basement level will find themselves in the chargeable, temporary exhibits.

 London Design Museum Parabolic Roof Structure

London Design Museum Parabolic Roof Structure

The internal space created by John Pawson’s design team lends itself perfectly to the architectural photographers lens, with intersecting planes that frame the museum’s visitors and the expanse of space created by the atrium which exposes their activity at all levels. The permanent exhibitions of the upper levels detail the history of design, showcasing an array of nostalgia inducing gadgets extracted from the recent past and presented anew for our curiosity. These exhibits, not surprisingly, utilise a design aesthetic of the museums own making so as to distinguish information, ease navigation and engage its audience.

To see more images of the London Design Museum which I took during my visit, including some of the recent Ferrari exhibition please head over to my project portfolio, or better still plan a trip to the museum yourself, it is truly a wonderful space to explore.