London’s Design Museum opened in its current location in 2016. No wonder it won the European Museum of the Year award in 2018! Its previous location was in an old banana warehouse. The new museum’s design is both innovative and striking. On Kensington High Street, it’s easy to get to via The Underground (Mind the Gap!) and free, except for special exhibits. It had been in the warehouse near Tower Bridge for 30 years, and the new museum triples its space. Sir Thomas Conran gave £17½ million for this move to happen, but another Sir, Gordon Russell, is the museum’s inspiration.
By sheer coincidence, Ruth visited Russell’s Design Museum in the town of Broadway, The Cotswolds, just 7 days before we went to the Design Museum in London. She was very impressed with what she saw in Broadway. Gordon Russell’s Dad bought the Lygon Arms Hotel there and Gordon learned design while repairing hotel furniture. Russell started to create his own furniture and Gordon Russell Ltd resulted. He became a master of Arts and Crafts cabinetmaking. By the time his operation became part of an international furniture company in the 1980s Gordon Russell had died. His factory in Broadway that employed more than 250 artisans has now been developed into offices, restaurants, the Gordon Russell Furniture Design Museum, and an excellent supermarket. Gordon Russel believed that good design could be made both affordable and accessible to all.
The new Kensington Design Museum is a fitting tribute to him and shows the best in design in permanent displays on its top floor where Ruth was enchanted by a graphics tablet that let her create her own Underground car for a “New Tube for London” while I watched and then browsed other displays of the best in design, like a white Gucci tennis shoe and a collection of Anglepoise lamps. This ubiquitous lighting fixture was invented by Brit George Carwardine. I especially liked the design timeline which informed me that potter Josiah Wedgewood established one of the world’s first modern factories in 1759 to more or less begin the industrial age. The timeline ends with the Maker-Bot Replicator, a 3-D printer.
The Design Museum’s current special show, which is not free, is a great one featuring movie director Stanley Kubrick. This exhibit commenced in Frankfort, Germany, and has visited 19 venues all over the world. London’s Design Museum is its final stop, and it ends on September 17, 2019. If you have the opportunity to visit London before that date, go to see both this new museum and a fine show. Kubrick, who died relatively young in 1999, directed only 13 feature films and 3 short documentaries and is now considered one of the world’s best (The Shining, Dr. Strangelove, etc.) An “obsessive genius” according to one display, Kubrick deserves to be in a design museum because he collaborated with set designers and used the latest technology in his films. For example, Kubrick worked with IBM industrial designer Eliot Noyes to create the look of his film 2001: A Space Odyssey. A Probe 16 is the first object everyone sees as they enter the Gordon Russell Design Museum. Kubrick used this futuristic vehicle in A Clockwork Orange. There were only 3 of them made. Their chassis were wood, and it’s hard to believe that this car, which looks very 2019, existed in 1971.