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Stars out in force at Design Museum's launch party

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London’s new Design Museum last night (22 November) hosted guests including Thomas Heatherwick, Alain de Botton, Jane Duncan – and a DJ set by Jarvis Cocker

Also being entertained by the Pulp frontman were Eva Jiricna, Asif Khan, MP Tristram Hunt, model Erin O’Connor and ex-footballer Sol Campbell.

The DJ set was preceded by speeches from Design Museum director Deyan Sudjic and its founder Terence Conran inside the museum’s new £83 million home in Kensington High Street, designed by John Pawson, OMA, and Allies and Morrison.

The transformation of the Grade II*-listed former 1960s RMJM-designed Commonwealth Institute triples the size of the Design Museum, formerly located near Tower Bridge, to 10,000m². It now includes two major temporary gallery spaces, a free permanent collection display, a restaurant overlooking Holland Park, auditorium, studios, library, archive and learning facilities. It will officially open to the public tomorrow (24 November). 

Conran called the former Commonwealth Institute’s swooping hyperbolic paraboloid roof – reportedly the first of its kind in Britain – ‘the best bit of sculpture in London’.

He said the restoration of the roof, by OMA, Allies and Morrison and Arup, along with the John Pawson interiors, had properly celebrated this ‘fantastic bit of design and engineering’.

‘It’s lasted for 50 years so I hope it won’t fall in tonight,’ he added.

Conran also stressed the importance of design within the UK, saying the nation needed to be more like the Scandinavian countries, with design embedded in their DNA, if it wanted to improve. 

‘I’ve always hoped government would pick up this idea and make it something really important in the economic life of this country,’ he said.

Commenting on the design, John Pawson said: ‘There are “moments” in the building that I relish every time I walk around, but I think it is really the way everything comes together – the new and the old – that gives me the greatest pleasure. I hope the Design Museum shows people that you don’t have to tear down and start from scratch to make exciting new cultural spaces.’

The Design Museum first opened in 1989 in a former banana warehouse on Shad Thames. This followed its original incarnation in 1983 as the Boilerhouse Project in the basement of the V&A.

Read Jay Merrick’s building study of the new Design Museum

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