The Design Museum - Opening Weekend
With a new home in High Street Kensington under the hyperbolic paraboloid roof of the former Commonwealth Institute, The Design Museum is now open and the Umbrella team popped down to see what it had to offer.
Giving new life to the old Commonwealth institute, this is now a dramatic and architecturally striking building. Inside, the vast copper ceiling adds luminosity, which, has a light reflecting quality ensuring that inside the museum it feels spacious, bright and contemporary.
Leather benches on the stairs allow additional seating with LED lighting under the bannisters and behind the benches giving a feeling of warmth to relax for a few moments to take in the buildings vast transformation.
The permanent collection is housed on the top floor and includes a wide range of exhibits centred on the theme of ‘Designer, Maker, User’. Exhibits included the new design of the future underground; and, the origins of the tube map for London and New York City.
The museum invites you to look at items with different perspective. ‘Kill or Heal’, presents the leg splint shown in comparison to the Kalashnikov AK-47; both designed around the second world war, both successful in their own way however, one was intended to heal, whilst the other to kill. Posing the questions of whether the designer can be held accountable for the way in which their products are used, or if it is the user who is ultimately responsible.
The museum also showed how design can be encouraged at an early age with kinetic kits to teach programming and an area for design development where kids, big or small ( we did join in) can pick from a range of briefs and hang their design ideas up on the designated display board in the museum.
The road signs, commissioned by the government for Britain’s new network of motorways and major roads, were tested in 1958 in an underground car park and in Hyde Park, where they were propped against trees to determine the most effective background colours and reading distances. ‘Style never came into it,’ Calvert has said of the typeface.
There was also a display of the lifespan and changes over time of many everyday items, from the TV and how it has evolved, to the Walkman and the evolution to the iPod. My favourite was the wall of objects that people had said they could not leave without either because of their love for the design or the functionality of the item helping them in everyday life. The item that stuck out the most? The elastic band ball, enough said!
Tip for a visit: pre-book tickets to the paid exhibitions and, if possible go in the week as it gets busy on the weekend and you may have to queue!