Great building, poor exhibition
In 1837, the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen wrote his “Kejserens nye Klæder” (‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’). Two tailors weave some new clothes for the Emperor. No one can see them because they were invisible, they had no substance at all, they did not exist.
London’s Design Museum has just (November 2016) moved into what used to be the Commonwealth Institute (‘CI’) in Holland Park. Its construction was completed in 1962. I remember visiting the CI in the early 1960s, when its gloomy interior housed exhibits from various parts of the Commonwealth. I was more impressed by the building’s then original and fantastic architecture than by its contents.
The CI building remained closed and disused from long before the beginning of this century until this year when it re-opened as the Design Museum. The building’s exterior has been well-restored, but is somewhat hidden from the road by two ugly ‘rectanguloid’ (or box-like) low-rise tower blocks, which are an affront to both good design and good town-planning. I imagine that letting or selling space in these two buildings helped pay for the restoration of the former CI building.
The interior of the old CI building has been scooped out and replaced by a wonderful new interior, an exciting space worthy of a museum that is dedicated to design.
Sadly, the exhibition fails miserably. Leaving the splendid atrium, the visitor enters a series of ‘galleries’ crammed with ‘icons’ of (mostly) 20th century design. The cluttered exhibition spaces reminded me of charity shops or jumble sales. The only difference between the museum and the latter is that the objects on display are in better condition than those in jumble sales or charity shops.
The newly located Design Museum made me think of Hans Christian Andersen. The building is splendid, both outside and inside, but the exhibition does not deserve such a fine building. The clothing is great, but the Emperor is missing.
I have made a VIDEO to show the building's interor.
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