Subjective Design

Architecture and design is subjective. Like any creative industry everyone can be a critic, any automatic emotional response to an object, space or building is personal to the individual, so would an educated opinion always be the more valid of the two?

The recent opening of the relocated Design Museum in Kensington, situated in the former Commonwealth Institute, has created such a divide. For a museum whose beginnings as the Boilerhouse exhibition space at the V&A, to then outgrow their banana ripening warehouse in Shad Thames and fill the 10,000sqm created inside the 1960’s building is an inspiring story in itself.

The architect in charge of the renovation, John Pawson, opened the first talk held in the Design Museum’s new 200 seater purpose built auditorium last week with a selection of his previous works. Whilst not hiding that this is his first public building Pawson highlighted how as a designer ‘for everything you do you draw on everything you’ve done’. Reusing both his residential experience and materials saved from the original building like the marble dais and world map to add to the warmth and appeal of the new fit out by Willmott Dixon Interiors.

Compared to a traditional museum or gallery with the focus on the design aspect for graphic, car, and fashion designers to architects provides a constantly flexible space where the team wanted to ensure they ‘got the place right for people’. Indeed, walking into the atrium echoes of ‘wow’ resound around the space as everyone looks up to the infamous ‘pringle’ hyperbolic roof. Each floor is on display immediately making it as Pawson claimed ‘natural and instinctive – not a building you learn how to use’.

So whilst there are those claiming the museum to be ‘boxy’ and ‘clumsy’ this designer saw a vast improvement compared to the old site aligning with user comments on how welcoming and more accessible the new Design Museum was compared to its closed insular past. Ensuring that the user experience rather than opinion of any creative solution is the most important factor.


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