diamond geezer

 Sunday, January 22, 2012

Design Museum
Location: 28 Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD [map]
Open: 10am - 5:45pm (last entrance 5:15)
Admission: £11 (includes £1 optional donation)
brief summary: showcase for contemporary design
Website: designmuseum.org (& Twitter)
Time to set aside: about an hour

It's been years since I visited the Design Museum, or at least any floor higher than its excellent shop, so yesterday I went back and reacquainted myself with its contemporary collection. The far end of Shad Thames isn't somewhere you'd visit by mistake, not unless you're a tourist walking the South Bank east until it goes no further, in which case it's precisely the sort of place you'd end up. A converted banana warehouse in the shadow of Tower Bridge, revamped in Modernist style, opened for public display in 1989. The man behind the founding of the museum is Sir Terence Conran, who owns several of the restaurants hereabouts, and he's the subject of the main exhibition on the first floor.

Terence Conran (16 November 2011 – 4 March)
He's 80 now, which provides the excuse for a full scale retrospective of his works, his legacy and his influences. Young Terence's interest in design sprang from visiting an exhibition of austerity exports at the V&A in 1946, thinking I could do that, and slowly working his way up. Some of his earliest scribbles are on show, plus a variety of Fifties fabric designs of the kind your grandparents might have had had they been beyond trendy at the time. I settled down to watch a short 70s documentary about Sir T's work, filmed by Peter Greenaway no less, only for the room to be invaded by a pair of arty middle class parents and their offspring. Mother was semi-keen to watch the film, whereas the two young daughters only wanted was to sprawl all over the seating and scribble in their kiddie quiz leaflets. Both parents then attempted to use the mini-theatre as a kind of babysitter while they went off to look at some chairs, but soon had to return to remove their ill-behaved progeny, whose plaintive cries of "but I want to watch the film" could be heard from outside for several minutes afterwards. There were a heck of a lot of chairs to look at. From Conran's iconic 1960s wicker cone to later curvaceous leather curves, they provided an excellent opportunity to view his progression in style through the decades. A major section dealt with Habitat, the iconic High Street store which brought affordable design to the masses (I'm sure I recognised the cover of the 1974 catalogue from my parents magazine rack). Food also merited its own corner, combining utensils, crockery and Tezza's various high-dining restaurants. I lost interest slightly in the penultimate part, focusing on some sculptor bloke that Conran is promoting, then perked up rather at the recreation of his study complete with shelving units filled with hundreds of his actual books. Worth a look.

This is Design (24 August 2011 – 22 January) (i.e. until today!)
The top floor exhibition isn't always a hot ticket (I believe a roomful of shoes is threatened for later in the year). But this is a winner, an assemblage of design icons from a broad range of product categories, laid out to show creative progression. A whole wall of chairs, obviously, because chairs define design defines chairs, or something. A big chunk of anglepoise lamps, obviously, because this is a design museum and that's what they do. But also a few less obvious selections, like a brief history of powered fans (from swirly blades to Dyson hoops) and an entire calculator retrospective. The museum owns half a Mini, sliced lengthwise, so that's on display between a Vespa and a Moulton. And for lovers of graphic design there's a wall of road signs, Kinneir & Calvert style, including a full size motorway sign (blimey, full size is big) and the small scale mockups that Jock and Margaret used in their initial presentation to a sceptical Ministry of Transport. Nearby stands a red phone box, as you'd expect, but also a single UK traffic light, designed in the mid Sixties by David Mellor (not that David Mellor) and still ubiquitous today. The crowd looking around on Saturday seemed appreciative, in a respectfully middle class way, although I think I'd have fitted in better if I'd had a beard. Exhibition closes this afternoon, last chance to see.

It's hoped that even more of the Design Museum's collection will be on display from 2014, when the entire operation ups sticks from the South Bank and moves into new premises in Kensington. That'll be the old Commonwealth Institute, whose empty shell museum staff proudly showed off last Open House weekend, much to my delight. Best of all the new place will be three times larger than the old, which means they can get much more of their collection out of storage and there'll be much more to see. I'm still never convinced that there's enough to see in the current building, which is why I don't go more often. Two floors of exhibits is all you get, and whether that's value for money depends entirely on whether an interesting pair of exhibitions is scheduled.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream