Visiting the Design Museum, London

You know you’re getting old when you can remember three incarnations of the same museum.  Back in 1981 the basement of the V&A played host to the Boiler House display of modern design, then in 1989 Sir Terence upped sticks and took the collection to Shad Thames; the Design Museum was born.  Now, after five years of construction work and £83 million, it  has moved again this time to the old Commonwealth Institute building on Kensington High Street.
Not that much of the Grade II* remains apart from the hyperbolic paraboloid roof (you know what one of those looks like, don’t you!).  John Pawson has had the exterior clad, the floors taken out and forests of blond oak installed.  The central atrium affords views up to that hyperbolic paraboloid roof, with the staircases snaking round the edge of the space.  Stand at the bottom and in the top left hand corner you catch a glimpse of the permanent collection.  It is a stunning space.
Design Museum
“Designer, Maker, User” is the name given to the Design Museum permanent collection, access to which is free.  A crowd sourced wall of 200 objects marks the entrance to the gallery.  Members of the public in 25 countries nominated their favourites for the wall, its quite fun looking to see how many you recognize as objects that you have used.  Once inside, transport is the first main theme.  Tube maps, a tube train even and how road signs have changed over the years.  Beyond that I don’t know because the rest of the exhibit was not finished when I visited.
Design Museum
If you have the slightest interest in design and happen to be in London, the Design Museum is well worth a jaunt down Kensington High Street, if only to see the building.  There is, of course, a well stocked gift shop and a brace of cafés catered by Conran.  One is on the ground floor and the other, Parabola, is up by that roof offering views over Holland Park.

224-238 Kensington High Street , London, W8 6AG
Open: Daily 10am-6pm
Admission: Free to building and Designer, Maker, User

If you’d like more ideas about entertaining teens take a look at my Free Things to do with Teens in London post.




  1. November 24, 2016 / 4:08 pm

    Perfect timing! I’m in London Sunday and may go myself. Commonwealth Institute was our go to babysitting trip when sister and I were small. This looks like a huuuge improvement on layout and design of building, never liked the whimsical dusty models of neolithic settlements and busy plaster ‘natives’ from the British Dominions or the sloping floor. Glad to see so many old design favourites in your photos and now I know what happened to my bike!! 😉 xjo

    • November 24, 2016 / 4:12 pm

      Certainly changed for the better since I went to do research for my Guides Commonwealth badge!

  2. November 24, 2016 / 5:32 pm

    I was about to say the same as Jo – perfect timing as planning to go Ldn 2mrw with kids for Inset day. Looks stunning! I remember visiting the Commonwealth Institute with my Granny and my twin bro in half terms when we would stay with her in Fulham so my mum would have a break from half her kids (!). My lasting memory was of a giant elephant, and, most notably, the time when we got the bus home after and whilst standing at the stop, realising I had a tooth coming through the roof of my mouth !!

  3. March 28, 2017 / 10:42 am

    Oooh we haven’t been seen it moved – looks fab

  4. March 28, 2017 / 7:58 pm

    I want to visit just to say I’ve seen a hyperbolic parabolid roof! (WHAT!?) Sounds like a cool place though, and I’m sure you’re not that old! 😉 #citytripping

  5. jphowze
    March 28, 2017 / 11:23 pm

    Haha. I remember the old Design Museum — love how it looks now! #citytripping

  6. March 29, 2017 / 9:57 am

    I’d be curious to see what objects had been selected. Element of the random hopefully!

  7. March 29, 2017 / 11:01 pm

    I had no idea it had moved! Perhaps now it’s slightly nearer where I live, I may actually make it there! Building looks fab. Thanks for linking #citytripping

  8. March 30, 2017 / 4:28 am

    I’ve never heard of this museum, but since it’s all about design, it would definitely be right up my alley! If I make a return visit to London, I’ll make sure it’s on my list of things to see. #citytripping

    • March 30, 2017 / 8:51 pm

      Very swish, I want to go back and have coffee at the top of the building!

  9. March 30, 2017 / 9:26 pm

    Looks great – I’ll have to go there next time I’m in London!

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