Design Museum opening: Restoration of 20th century landmarks

The new Design Museum opens its doors on the 24th of November. This emblematic project is the result of a collaborative coalition of designers: Allies and Morrison has been part of a team comprising OMA, John Pawson, West 8 and Arup to bring back to life a listed work of Johnson-Marshall and Partners, a 1962 Modernist building in Kensington, west London.

Our contribution included the redesign of the building’s façades to allow natural light into the interior while improving energy performance. We restored the building’s distinctive parabolic concrete roof and reworked the interior spaces to make for a more open and public building. John Pawson has created a series of exhibition spaces that provide a restrained and subtle backdrop for the Design Museum’s exhibition programme. The Design Musem’s listed roof and primary supports were retained and strengthened. A significant new basement space was also created as part of the new design. This enabled the existing internal structure to be re-configured. The wider site features three new residential buildings, the hollandgreen development, designed by OMA and Allies and Morrison set within a landscape by West 8.

‘This is a milestone project in the refurbishment of a piece of 20th century architectural history’, says partner Simon Fraser. ‘We relished the chance to update the building for the purposes of accommodating a 21st century Design Museum. It afforded us the opportunity to deepen unique skills in the re-adaptation of Modernist landmarks for new uses and audiences’.

The process of restoring the building draws on our practice’s particular abilities in the redevelopment of 20th century architectural listed buildings. Many of the same architects who worked on the Royal Festival Hall renovation worked on this project, applying their unique knowledge in this different context. As many of these buildings age and perhaps outlive their original purposes, projects such as the Design Museum and Royal Festival Hall show that new life can take root in these important pieces of our shared architectural and cultural heritage.

The Design Museum is the latest cultural commission undertaken by Allies and Morrison. Related projects include the new Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Cultural and Education Quarter, the renovation of the Royal Observatory Greenwich, the new home for the Rambert dance company, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, the expansion of the Horniman Museum, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and the ongoing expansion of Shakespeare’s Globe, as well as the Royal Festival Hall where Allies and Morrison has been the house architect.


Design Museum and hollandgreen – Allies and Morrison team

Partners: Simon Fraser, Robert Maxwell
Director: Neil Shaughnessy
Associate Directors: Joel Davenport, Heidi Shah
Associates: Sean Joyce, Johanna Coste-Buscayret

Team: Irina Bardakhanova, Ozlem Balicadag, Dinka Beglerbegovic, Thomas Cartledge, Ignacio Diaz-Maurino Jimenez, Owen Jowett, Iris Hoffman, Ines Kramer, Ioana Mititelu, Sophie Nicholaou, Fabiana Paluszny, Duarte Santo, Tom See Hoo, Mike Slade, Janina Vetriest, Stuart Thomson