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WAS the SHAPE of the structure which was constructed

as the ROOF of the Commonwealth Institute, when it

was originally built between 1960 and 1962.

Terence Conran is to give the Design Museum a gift which could amount to £17.5m to help it move from its much loved but cramped location on the Thames to the Commonwealth Institute in west London.

Conran, who will turn 80 in October, met the prime minister, David Cameron, at Downing Street in recognition of a major act of philanthropy. The design guru is giving a cash gift of £7.5m, as well as the proceeds of selling the lease he owns on the museum building – expected to be in the region of £10m.

Deyan Sudjic, director of the museum, said the gift would mean exhibitions could be displayed in three times as much space. He added:

"Terence Conran has transformed Britain. His contribution to the way we live, eat and shop over six decades has been enormous. The gift to the Design Museum is a hugely generous investment in the future."

While the museum has an enviable location near Tower Bridge,

the modernist-style former banana warehouse is just too small.

Staff hope to complete a £77m move about six miles west to the far more spacious Commonwealth Institute, on Kensington High Street, by 2014.

"Regarded by English Heritage as the second most important modern building in London, after the Royal Festival Hall, the building has a low brickwork plinth clad in blue-grey glazing. Above this swoops the most striking feature of the building, the complex hyperbolic paraboloid copper roof, made with 25 tonnes of copper donated by the Northern Rhodesia Chamber of Mines.

The shape of the roof reflects the architects' desire to create a "tent in the park ".

The gardens feature a large water feature, grass lawns, and a flagpole for each member of the Commonwealth. The interior of the building consists of a dramatic open space, covered in a tent-like concrete shell, with tiered exhibition spaces linked by walkways. The diagonal, diamond shaped exhibition block was clearly different from the rectangular administration wing and the junction of the exhibition and administration blocks created a considerable design problem.

The Art Gallery measured 95x44 feet and relied primarily on natural lighting. A large picture window facing the park was included to postpone the desire for escape that the four solid walls of many art galleries quickly engender. The cinema beneath the art gallery was designed for daily showings of Commonwealth news and interest films but was adaptable for other purposes. It seated 450 and could be used as a lecture hall, and had a workshop stage and stage lighting for the staging of theare productions.

The building was listed Grade II* in 1988 for its roof, place as a post-war building, importance in the history of museum and exhibition design, and historical significance in marking the transition from Empire to Commonwealth.

On 22 July 2005 the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Tessa Jowell rejected a proposal to remove the building's listed status, seen by the building's owners as an obstacle to its demolition. In April 2007, the Commonwealth Institute building was acquired by property developers Chelsfield Partners. A planning brief, issued by the local council in August 2007, called for the preservation of the main structure of the building, preferably for a use such as art gallery that would retain its essential components. The brief also called for greater integration of the gardens with Holland Park.

Plans for redevelopment of the site were drawn up by Rem Koolhaas’ practice OMA and submitted for planning permission to the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea in April 2009. They include construction of three six to nine-storey residential buildings, replacing the former Administration wing, and large-scale internal modifications to the interior of the main structure, to enable its use by the Design Museum.

After criticism by local residents' groups and the Twentieth Century Society, relating both to the impact of the new buildings on the local streetscape and to the skyline of Holland Park, and to the large scale of the internal modifications to the existing structure, revised plans were submitted in August 2009. The new blocks will be lower in height, with fewer internal modifications to the existing structure. The revised proposal was approved by the Council on 17 September 2009 and by English Heritage on 25 September 2009.[8] 

The architect John Pawson will be responsible for the conversion of the Exhibition Hall to provide a new home for the Design Museum.[9]

In January 2012 it was confirmed that the Design Museum would move

to the building with an £80m makeover opening in 2014."


With the addition of the HLF grant, the Design Museum has made good progress towards raising the necessary funds to complete the new Design Museum project which is due to open in 2014. The campaign also aims to raise an endowment fund to ensure the long-term sustainability of the museum.

John Pawson has redesigned the interior of the former Commonwealth Institute, a Grade 2* listed building which has lain dormant for over a decade. The move will give the Design Museum three times more space in which to show a wider range of exhibitions, showcase its world class collection and extend its learning programme. The move will bring the museum into Kensington’s cultural quarter where it will join the V&A, Science Museum, Natural History Museum, Royal College of Art and Serpentine Gallery.

Deyan Sudjic, Director of the Museum said ‘This is a vital step forward for the new Design Museum and an outst....’


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Comment by Michael Grove on June 16, 2013 at 7:37

The Romans were aware of the heavy nature of their building materialsSo they used lighter materials toward the top of the dome  of the Pantheon in Rome.

On the lowest level travertine, the heaviest material was used, then a mixture of travertine and tufa, then tufa and brick, then all brick was used around the drum section of the dome, and finally pumice, the lightest and most porous of materials on the ceiling of the dome.

When Herod the Great, as an ally to Rome and Roman client King of Judea, decided that a 
new port for increased trading purposes, was required to be built on the Eastern Mediterranean coastline, it was inevitable that Rome took control over its construction. Recent archeological investigations of the site and analysis of the concrete used in the submerged foundations, has proved conclusively that the Romans had developed an underwater concrete formula which  included pigs blood as well as volcanic sand and ash, that ensured   that the concrete got stronger and stronger with age. A column of this concrete was tested at the most advanced test facility on earth and found to be even stronger than the strongest concrete produced by  our species today, in the foundations of projects such as

The Freedom Tower in New York.

Comment by Michael Grove on May 19, 2015 at 8:11

The research and development of the building and building materials

side of construction of John Laing, the company for whom my father

worked for all of his working life since before WWII, was based in 

Boreham WoodHertfordshire, and it was there that Kirby Laing 

gave the name to the Thermalite block, a lightweight building brick

developed from pulverised fuel ash which was and remains immensely

successful in its field. I can only imagine that it was because of

John Laing's connection with South Africa that my father spoke so

highly of the spacial ability of the Zulus and their expertise in the

rapidity of Bailey Bridge construction, which the Royal Engineers were

tasked with during WWII and it was Kirby Laing who succeeded in

convincing his father to release him to serve in the Royal Engineers

during the last two years of the war. Following the consequences of the

explosion of a land-mine in North Africa, whilst serving as a Royal

Engineer in the Eigth Army, my father spent 6 months in a Hospital

in Alexandia, Egypt, before then becoming involved with the allied

push across the German defensive Gustav line towards Rome, after  

a landing in Italy directly from North Africa, by way of his hands-on

involvement with the building of the Bailey Bridges over which the likes

of Richard Glover's Tank Commander father pushed towards ROME 

following the capture of Monte Cassino, whilst my soul-mate Linnie’s

father Ronald Arthur Yardley provided telecommunications support

throughout the push to Rome and thence the North, until the German


Comment by Michael Grove on May 25, 2021 at 15:18

  Britain’s most recognisable minimalist won the  

  competition to create London’s new Design 

  Museum in the old Commonwealth Institute

  building in Kensington. He used oak, stone and

  white walls to enclose the exhibition spaces but

  left exposed the unusual parabolic roof made of

  25 tonnes of copper donated by Northern Rhodesia

  in 1960.


Comment by Michael Grove on September 20, 2022 at 11:05

Ten must-see installations at London Design Festival 2022

With London Design Festival 2022 set to begin in less than a week, we've rounded up this year's must-visit installations, events and exhibitions, from a sculpture made from ocean plastic to chiselled outdoor seating.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, London Design Festival is one of the world's leading design events and a staple in the UK's cultural calendar. To mark the anniversary, more than 300 events across 12 design districts will operate across the capital city from 17 to 25 September.

Visitors can expect a varied roster of events including installations, workshops, exhibitions and product launches, as well as showroom tours, talks, trade fairs and other fringe events.

Activities set to take place on Monday 19 September will be rescheduled to honour Queen Elizabeth II's funeral.

See Dezeen Events Guide's digital guide to London Design Festival 2022 for more information on the many events taking place at this year's festival.

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