Terence Conran and John Pawson put in an appearance at what will be the new Design Museum in Kensington this week. Located in the former Commonwealth Institute, the 10,000 sq m building is set to open in 2014, placing the organisation within a stone's throw of 'Albertopolis' - SW7's museum district.
Empty for more than a decade, the Grade II listed building, which features a dramatic tent-like roof, is an example of 1960s architecture at its best. 'The challenge is working inside the skin of an existing building which is more than 50 years old but it still seems very daring, says Pawson, who with his trademark palette of brushed concrete and wooden flooring is striving to 're-tune the architecture so it still feels fresh but also to give the Design Museum what they need'.
The new venue will stretch to five floors and aims to double visitor numbers to 500,000 a year. Rem Koolhaas' OMA is redeveloping the residential area around the building. Project architect Reinier de Graaf describes this as 'an exercise in fading into the background and being humble. We tried to pay tribute to that period [the 1960s]'.
Conran, who founded the original Design Museum at Shad Thames in 1989, has stumped up £17m towards the £80m project. 'We hope it will have the same spirit as Milan's Triennale,' he says, adding: 'We are no longer the workshop of the world, but we can still be a workshop and with the new - and the old - Design Museum, we can be a great one.'