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Friday 27 Jan 2012

The Commonwealth Institute to become the new home of London’s Design Museum

Plans have been unveiled this week for the relocation of the Design Museum from Tower Bridge to the Commonwealth Institute in Kensington, London.

Two renowned architectural practices are involved in the development worth £80m. John Pawson is redesigning the interiors of the Grade II* listed building. The tent-like structure of the roof becomes the heart of the new building. Visitors entering the building will be offered unobstructed views. Alongside the exhibition spaces on the ground floor, there will be a 200-seat auditorium and a café. The middle floor will contain offices and educational facilities. Beneath the roof will be the museums permanent ‘introduction to design' exhibition and a restaurant. OMA - founded by Rem Koolhaas - are designing the surrounding residential development.

The Commonwealth Institute building was completed in 1962 and is what many consider to be a fine example of post-war modernist architecture. The striking building opened as an exhibition hall and also included a cinema, workshops and landscaped gardens. Since 2002 however, it has been out of use. John Cunliffe, a leading member of the original architectural team assists the new design team.

This landmark site will triple the space the museum currently has, and put it on the world stage. Located in Kensington's cultural quarter, the museum with fittingly sit alongside the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Royal College of Art and the Serpentine Gallery.

State of the art facilities will be incorporated, allowing for the expansion of the education and public events programmes. It was also announced that The Dr Mortimer & Theresa Sackler Foundation has a made a generous donation that will enable the establishment of The Sackler Library within the museum.

Of the building, John Pawson says: "There is particularly nice symbolism in the fact that in making this legacy for future generations, we are saving a work of iconic architecture. I hope the result will demonstrate that you don't need to demolish old buildings to make wonderful new public space." The museum is expected to open to the public in 2014.

Dami Babalola

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