Design Museum, UK

Showcasing the power of interdisciplinary collaboration, London’s new Design Museum is both an example of, and a place for, exceptional contemporary design, of which ChapmanBDSP and Studio ZNA’s lighting schemes play an important role in creating a space to inspire future generations.

On 24 November 2016, the Design Museum opened in its new home on Kensington High Street, west London. Housed in a landmark grade II* listed modernist building from the 1960s that has been sensitively retuned by  John Pawson, the project is the culmination of a five-year construction process. The museum has now tripled to 10,000sqm from its previous premises in Shad Thames, south-east London. Following an investment of £83m, the structure has been transformed for its future role as the world’s leading institution dedicated to contemporary design and architecture.

Remodeling the interior, John Pawson has created a series of calm, atmospheric spaces ordered around an oak-lined atrium, incorporating key elements from the original structure. The project has seen some of the world’s leading designers, manufacturers and patrons come together to create a new global hub for contemporary design. With architectural and structural expertise from OMA, Allies and Morrison and Arup, a permanent collection display designed by Studio Myerscough, a restaurant and members’ room by Universal Design Studio, a Centre for Learning made possible by the Swarovski Foundation, flooring by Dinesen, furniture by Vitra, shelving by Vitsoe, lighting by Concord, a visual identity by Studio Fernando Gutierrez and way-finding by Cartlidge Levene, the new Design Museum is an outstanding example of interdisciplinary collaboration.

Founded by Sir Terence Conran, the Design Museum opened in 1989 in a former banana ripening warehouse on Shad Thames, following its successful original incarnation opening in 1983 as the Boilerhouse Project, in the basement of the V&A. Remaining at Shad Thames until 30 June 2016, the Design Museum mounted a host of critically acclaimed exhibitions, including shows dedicated to the work of Lord Richard Rogers, Thomas Heatherwick, Dame Zaha Hadid, Dieter Rams, Ettore Sottsass, Sir Paul Smith, Christian Louboutin and Sir Kenneth Grange.

The new museum sits on Kensington High Street next to the southern entrance to Holland Park and forms the heart of the new Holland Green residential development. In 2010 a partnership formed by Chelsfield and the Ilchester Estate to redevelop the site was granted planning permission by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea for the construction of three residential buildings and the refurbishment of the Grade II* listed building at the centre of the site.

The complex renovation of the museum saw OMA led by Reinier de Graaf, Allies and Morrison, Arup and John Pawson work together to bring this landmark of post-war British architecture back into use. Using radical engineering techniques, the original concrete floors were removed – a process that entailed propping the roof on a temporary steel structure 20-metres above the ground. The original façade has been replaced with a double glazed skin, significantly improving insulation standards and allowing daylight into the interior. The new exterior has been meticulously detailed to resemble the original blue skin of the building, with matching mullions and a fritted pattern of printed dots. A new public plaza complete with fountains has been installed at the entrance to the museum, within a landscape designed by West 8.

Inside the museum, visitors find themselves in a central atrium with striking views up to the iconic hyperbolic paraboloid roof. The stunning concrete roof spans the length of the building, rising on the two opposing corners to create a manta ray-like structure above. Galleries, learning spaces, a café, an events space and a shop are arranged like an opencast mine around the main atrium, allowing visitors to navigate with ease.

The building has two temporary galleries, one on the ground floor, the other on the museum’s lower level. Both featuring double-height spaces and textured concrete columns, these galleries will display up to seven temporary exhibitions per year. The 200-seat Bakala Auditorium completes the basement and allows the museum to expand its public programme and evening talks.

The ground floor houses the Design Museum’s coffee and juice counter, seating up to 40 people. Located opposite is the Design Museum Shop, featuring Vitsoe shelving units and the building’s original stained glass windows by Keith New.

The oak staircases form the circulatory heart of Pawson’s design. Strip LEDs line the handrails and banisters, adding theatre to the experience of moving round the building, as visitors follow the light towards the top floor and the soaring underside of the roof.

A key element of the Pawson vocabulary, a wooden bench with concealed lighting spans one side of the Weston Mezzanine.

Pawson commented: ‘‘There are moments in the building that I relish every time I walk around, but I think it is really the way everything comes together – the new and the old – that gives me the greatest pleasure. I hope the Design Museum shows people that you don’t have to tear down and start from scratch to make exciting new cultural spaces.’’

The main attraction on the museum’s top floor is the new permanent collection display, Designer Maker User. For the first time in the museum’s history, this exhibition will be free to visit. It will display almost 1,000 objects, viewed from the perspectives of designer, manufacturer and user, as well as a crowd-sourced wall. Generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), a grant of £4.9m has made a substantial contribution towards the construction of the new building and the realisation of this permanent display. Standout pieces include a 1:1 scale model of the new London tube train, the British road signage system, an AK47 and an interactive digital fashion display.

Studio ZNA were appointed as lighting designers to work with studio Myerscough to design the Designer Maker User display. The main challenges of the space was the gallery’s location on the second floor, sitting underneath the iconic, sloping roof structure. Studio ZNA therefore had no ceilings apart from two small zones which allowed for small-suspended ceilings. For the rest of the gallery the team needed to create a self-supporting structure that could span the 3D build to house its luminaires. So they collaborated with the designers to produce a lightweight bespoke truss system that acted as both structural support for the freestanding display walls and as a light carrier. The frame is used to carry the cabling and recessed bespoke monopoint fittings by Precision Lighting to house its LED Evo spotlights. This accent lighting was supplemented with linear LED by Vexica to provide a soft ambient light to the space. In other areas the studio designed a series of canopies that extended the walls to house small wallwasher Laser Blades by iGuzzini. For lit shelving and showcases lighting LED Light Sheet by Applelec was proposed to achieve a slim profile. Linear lights are concealed in joinery to highlight objects and express form and texture.

Conservation requirements on paper and textiles were adhered to whilst the use of ambient light in the circulation zones countered the effects of lower light levels. A lensed linear luminaire by L&L Luce & Light, was used on the moving info graphic title wall, which invites the public into the exhibition as you enter the museum at ground level. It injects the huge minimalist atrium with an energy and a hint at the creative innovation and invention on display.

The top floor of the building also offers views down to the ground floor and a chance for visitors to come within touching distance of the roof. Parabola, a new restaurant named after the museum’s signature roof, sits on the top floor of the museum and offers unprecedented views of Holland Park. Designed by Universal Design Studio, the space features customised archive furniture by Vitra and Artek, a sculptural polished pewter bar by Benchmark and lighting by Flos.

For the rest of the lighting, beginning in 2014, Concord worked with the Design Museum to supply the new scheme ready for the opening in November 2016. Designed by lighting consultants ChapmanBDSP and installed with LJJ Mechanical & Electrical Contractors, Concord has provided over 2,500 luminaires to light the 10,000sqm space.

The lighting has been designed to blend into the architectural features of the structure, whilst still providing a flexible and easy to manage system. Graham Large, Head of Architectural Lighting Design at ChapmanBDSP, explained: “When we first developed a specification for this project, it incorporated a variety of lighting manufacturers. The Design Museum then asked us to look at working with one supplier and, after a competitive bid process Concord was the partner chosen. We worked with Concord to refine the specification and ensure all the lighting met our initial ideas and goals. We were impressed with the results and found it extremely useful to be dealing with one person on every aspect of the lighting, including all the controls.”

The main exhibition and event spaces on the upper basement, mezzanine and first floor use over 800 Concord Beacon Muse 3,000k White track mounted spotlights to provide flexibility in beam angle control and light levels. Over 200m of Lumiance Lumistrip has also been installed in the exhibition space to provide indirect light above the exhibition panels whilst the entrances have Mini Continuum light lines with integrated spotlights.

Concord worked with Lutron to provide a DALI control system for the project. The system allows for individual dimming and control of all the luminaires throughout the scheme to ensure the required effect is achieved in each space and it will cater for flexible use during both daylight and night time hours.

In total, there are 1,200 Beacon Muse spotlights installed in the building, mounted onto around 1,000 metres of Lytespan 3 track. In the two temporary galleries as well as the educational areas and studios, Concord Beacon Muse luminaires have been installed in combination with Concord Mini Continuum LED to provide a combination of ambient lighting with focused task illumination from the spotlights. Mini Continuum light lines have been used in combination with track mounted versions for the studio areas, pendants for larger areas and Mini Continuum Direct / Indirect through the office spaces, lighting the desks whilst enhancing the working space with indirect light on the ceilings.

Large continued: “The team at the museum was very hands on during the process and knew exactly what they wanted. For instance, the spotlights within the galleries have on-board dimmers so the staff can focus and set light levels themselves, a key requirement for the project.”

The 200 seat Bakala auditorium has a fully controlled lighting system that features both Mini Continuum and black Beacon Muse luminaires to blend into the interior decor.

Across the whole building, the luminaires have been designed to blend into the décor with black trim Concord Ascent 150 downlights, Mini Continuum and Beacon luminaires discreetly lighting the retail spaces by matching the ceiling design, whilst Beacon Muse spotligths on drop rod extensions, have been employed to subtly illuminate the space through a woodened beam ceiling design structure.

The lighting scheme is finished off with specialist luminaires for areas such as the Member’s lounge and Parabola Café & Restaurant, where the 90 Concord Myriad V downlights have been fitted. These luminaires have a colour tuning engine to take the room from 2,700k as an intimate dining space to 4,500k for functional and service use at other times. For the central parabola ceiling, Concord supplied high output surface mounted ArcSource 96 Smart White projectors and floor recessed custom inground ArcPad 48 LED projectors by Anolis, to provide accent light to this feature.

The lighting scheme extends to the back of house with Concord providing IP65 recessed fittings for kitchens, Ascent downlights for the bathrooms, LED surface mounted panels in the basement and IP65 Sylvania Sylproof LED linear fittings for the plant rooms and loading bays.

Expected to attract 650,000 visitors in its first year, the Design Museum combines architecture, product design, technology, graphics and fashion to investigate the form, function and meaning of the world around us.

Sir Terence Conran, founder of the Design Museum concluded: ‘‘It really does feel like our moment has arrived and that the importance of design to our lives is now truly appreciated. With three times the space and John Pawson’s beautiful architectural work I hope we can now educate, inspire and delight future generations for years to come and truly make a difference to the world around us.’’

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Pic: Gareth Gardner