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Design Museum eyes Commonwealth Institute

The AJ has uncovered top-secret plans to move the Design Museum from its existing home close to Tower Bridge in London to the revamped Commonwealth Institute.

The museum is in detailed talks with developer Chelsfield Partners about a proposed relocation across the capital to the Grade II*-listed 1960s icon in Holland Park, west London.

It remains unclear how the museum will fit into yet-to-be-seen plans for the site, currently being drawn up by Rem Koolhaas’ practice Office for Metropolitan Architecture. Koolhaas, who saw off the likes of Rafael Moneo, Caruso St John, Rafael Viñoly and Eric Parry to land the prestigious job back in March, is reported to be delighted by the move (AJ 20.03.08).

A spokesman for the Design Museum admitted negotiations were underway but refused to reveal future timescales or the scale of the development. He said: ‘[We are] in discussions with Chelsfield Partners regarding the proposed move to the Commonwealth Institute. However, these discussions are in very early stages, and we are not currently in a position to make any announcements.’

The proposed relocation to the tent-like institute building has been welcomed by RMJM – the practice founded by the building’s designer Robert Matthew, which still holds the original drawings.

Paul Stallan, RMJM’s European design director, said: ‘The Design Museum moving to the Commonwealth Institute might just work.

‘The institute building, in its previous life, supported progressive exhibitions where the primary objective of advancing education was paramount. However, significant investment would be required to bring the building up to modern venue standard.

‘There is no doubt in my mind that showcasing contemporary design within such a great example of 1960s British Modern style would be exciting,’ he added.

It is not the first time the Design Museum has considered moving from its purpose-built space in Shad Thames – the 1989 conversion of a post-war warehouse by Conran Roche (now Conran & Partners).

Back in 2006, former museum director Alice Rawsthorn approached the Tate Modern with a view to building a larger facility behind the London gallery, but the deal fell through following Rawsthorn’s departure.

It is unclear what will become of the current museum if the move goes ahead.

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