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Pawson reveals £80m Commonwealth Institute rebirth

John Pawson has revealed these images of his proposed conversion of the Grade II* listed Commonwealth Institute (CI) building, west London, into the new home for the Design Museum

The £80 million proposals will see the museum move from its current home in Shad Thames, east London into the refurbished 1962 RMJM tent-like landmark, which has stood empty for more than a decade.

Pawson’s design team for the new project has been helped by Roger Cunliffe, a ‘leading member’ of the original architectural team for the CI in 1958, and by James Sutherland, the building’s original structural engineer.

The museum hopes to open its doors to the public in 2014 and double its visitor number to 500,000 a year with an ‘expanded education and public events programme’.

The museum’s founder,Terence Conran described its existing base near Tower Bridge as ‘full to the brim and bursting at the seams’ and said he relished the opportunity to move to west London’s Albertropolis, in what is regarded as the territory of the V & A.

Pawson’s scheme has been halied as ‘a soft touch approach, using a quiet palette of materials, including terrazzo and hardwood floors’. The proposals will also make the north and south facades more transparent and, working with structural engineer Arup, features new openings in the floors of the five-storey museum, which will open up new views of its original hyperbolic paraboloid roof.

Plans were submitted for the scheme, which sits within a larger development of the site designed by Rem Koolhaas’ OMA, before Christmas (2011). Pawson

Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum, said ‘This is an important step forward for the Design Museum. We are very excited by all the work that John Pawson and the rest of the design team have done.

‘They have put forward a brilliant strategy to bring the former Commonwealth Institute back to life, which will allow the public to see the essential qualities of this historic listed buildin, and make a wonderful new home for the Design Museum.’


The architect’s view - John Pawson
‘The most exciting thing about the project is that, at the end of it all, London will have a world-class museum of design, with galleries for permanent and temporary exhibitions, education spaces and a library. 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.’


Readers' comments (3)

  • It may be an impertinent question but where on earth is the £80m coming from?
    Its surely an obscene amount of money to be spending at the best of times?

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Eddy Rhead's comments are less than thoughtful. This museum, available to children and young people (and the rest of us too) across the UK and wider, for the next 100 years or more, will open up the vista of design - industrial, domestic, aesthetic and practical, to all.
    Enabling all of us to access information and inspiration, it's probably costing each of us about 1p - great value for a rare new museum to enjoy, learn from and connect with.

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  • Last week my city, Manchester, announced huge cuts to vital services across all aspects of council departments. By coincidence they are having to make £80m of cuts.
    But i suppose London is getting *another* new swanky museum for us all to enjoy eh? So that makes it all alright.
    I stand by my thoughtless thoughts as much now as i did a year ago.
    If you dont mind - can i have my 1p back please?

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