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The Design Museum

The Design Museum is probably the hippest, or as the kids say, edgiest museum in the United Kingdom. Located in Kensington High Street, the Design Museum features exhibits focused exclusively on contemporary architecture and design. Museum director Deyan Sudjic believes that design offers a way for us to understand the world and make it a better place.

The Design Museum, which drew 750,000 visitors to its four-storey premise in 2017, was named as the 2018 European Museum of the Year, owing to its exceptional achievement in exploring the “magic of human creativity.”

Inside the Design Museum in Kensington. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

History of the Design Museum

The Design Museum was established in 1989 near Tower Bridge in a small lot which used to be a banana-ripening warehouse. Funded primarily by Habitat founder, Sir Terence Conran, the Design Museum’s unique 1930s Modernist architecture drew a lot of praise during its 27 years stay there. However, owing to space constraints, the museum moved to a more spacious building six miles west of Kensington in 2016. The building, which was formerly used by the Commonwealth Institute building, was three times larger than its old premise and would allow the museum to move a large chunk of its collection out of storage.

The renovation for the new site reportedly costs £83 million – and Sir Conran once again led the way with a £17.5 million donation. Other sources of funding for the project include the Heritage Lottery and Arts Council.

The museum is chartered as an independent charity. As such, less than 2% of its funding is from the government. This makes the museum extremely reliant on patrons, sponsorships, tickets, and donations from members of the public.

Exhibits at the Design Museum

The exhibits on display at the museum are wildly varied and highly eclectic, and cover themes such as fashion, graphic design and architecture, among others. Permanent exhibits are typically showcased on levels one and two, while temporary exhibitions, such as Land Rover’s eco-friendly seat fabrics and couturier to the stars Azzedine Alaïa’s life and work, are displayed on the ground floor and atrium. If you think that’s about as avant-garde as a museum can get, think again. In March 2018, the museum hosted a probably satirical exhibition of global politics called “hope to nope” that even includes a tiny-hand Donald Trump ‘mis-fortune’ telling machine!

Location and Admission

The Design Museum is located just around Earl’s Court Road and Kensington High Street corner, adjacent to the Holland Park entrance. It’s a ten minutes’ walk from High Street Kensington Station. Please note that the museum does not provide parking spaces to visitors, so please make advance arrangements if you are driving here.

The museum is open daily from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m., except on the first Friday of every month, when the closing time is extended to 8.00 p.m.

Admission is free for permanent exhibits. Tickets for temporary exhibitions are usually priced at £16.

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