Just next to the HMS Belfast, just South of the Thames, you will find the Design Museum. Its entrance is magnificent, with its superb architectural ingenuity. It is a perfect place to fill the time of a day in London after getting off the HMS Belfast. I believe that the location is perfect, with the simple walk down from Waterloo, to the Design Museum. On a sunny day it is lovely to eat at a Cafe before going into the Design Museum.
Its prime target is for University students & Artists. I personally believe that is wasn't a suitable place to take your children because of the lack of "hands on"
Inside the museum, they offer numerous different exhibitions which are worth a look at. However they often are quite expensive and can get busy at times. General entrance is quite expensive, in the sense that other museums such as the British Museum is free. However, I do believe that it is worth your time if you're looking for something different. Inside is very clean and the staff are very helpful in getting your way around. In a society where design plays a monumental role, I believe it gives a lovely insight about different types of art.
The Design Museum is situated just a few hundred yards from Tower Bridge. I last visited about a year ago so there may have been a few changes since then. The Design museum is a repository for what are considered to be the best , or at least iconic pieces, of twentieth century product design. This includes furniture, tables, chairs, lighting and all manner of interior furnishings. The collection though mostly covering the modernist period does look incredibly dated. Modernism as a style has been around for over a hundred years now, and is fast sliding into a historical period, in fact it already has. When you go to the museum thinking Im going to see the best collection of modern industrially produced furnishings in the country you quickly realise that when you see them all together they are all now museum pieces. If you want to see the latest in interior design, go down the high street. There is a fascination for me at seeing many of these pieces, as they are all evocative and iconic of their period. Each one tells us something about the period and the people who produced it. When I was studying design at College, I was told that the acid test for any designer is the chair. This is because it poses nearly all the problems a designer can face in one object. There are the problems of ergonomics, this is how the design interacts with the human body, size and shape, how comfortable it is. There is aesthetics, how the piece will look, what are the design agendas and ethos, social and political values, behind the visual appearance of the piece. There is the construction and manufacture of the piece, use of materials, truth to materials etc. There is in fact a chair gallery at the design museum featuring about 20-30 iconic designs of the twentieth century. A couple from each decade. It is fascinating for me, to see all these pieces all together in one place when you have spent so long looking at them in books. Photographs can be quite deceptiv
e. A lot of them tend to be a lot smaller in real life than they appear in photographs, perhaps because when they were photographed for publicity and promotional purposes they were meant to be dominant in the picture so you are left with a big impression of the piece, big in stature if not big in size. A kind of marketing ploy, or artistic conceit.. They have all the classic designs from Le Corbusier?s Barcelona chair, to the Gerrit Rietvelds de Stijl, red blue chair, this is what I was thinking of when I said some of them look tiny in real life, I always imagined this to be quite a sturdy construction in fact it is quite delicate. It may sound a bit peculiar for some one to be waxing lyrical on about a load of chairs, but if you have an interest in design you will know what I am talking about. As well as the permanent collection there are also temporary exhibitions. The last one I went in to see was Gio Ponti, A Retrospective, the Italian architect and designer which was a fabulous exhibition. They had many of his interior pieces, furnishings and furniture, and drawings and designs , as well as drawings designs and imagery of his architectural works. The quality of this exhibition far outshone that of the permanent collection which I found rather odd, maybe they put more work into these exhibitions as these are the main crowd pullers. Gio Ponti was among one of the most inspiring of the twentieth century?s architects and designers, as a founding father of Italian modernism. His vast portfolio of work was well represented from his architectural works such as Milan?s Pirelli building to his product designs such as the La Pavoni coffee machine. I have never really been a big fan of Gio Ponti, but I think this is because I have never seen his work in Real life before. It amazing to think how little the camera can capture of an artists work, I have found that photographs can only give you the faintest impression of a sculpture or object, whe
n you see them in the flesh it is a whole new experience. With any piece of design you need to touch and feel the materials, pick it up and hold it, or if it is a chair sit in it to appreciate the real qualities of the design. That is one good thing about the chair gallery, I mentioned earlier, these exhibits are not roped off, with do not touch written on them, you are encouraged to sit in them and evaluate them, and see if these big name twentieth designers were really worth their money. Not like the V&A ( Victoria & Albert Museum, South Kensington, London) where everything is behind barriers or glass, and you must not touch on pain of death,. The V&A does have a much bigger collection the design museum is tiny in comparison and it only has twentieth century artifacts, but at the V&A you can not touch anything. In terms of facilities the Design museum does reasonably well , there is a café on the first floor overlooking the Thames, which was being re decorated at the time so I have not been in, though it looked pretty reasonable, the usual coffee and snacks I think. Also there is a bookshop specialising in books on design and designers as you would expect, a range of reasonably priced to extremely expensive, for the connoisseurs and professional designers. I would be interested to know how many professional designers actually visit the design museum as a place of inspiration or homage, in fact I wonder just how many people visit it at all because on the few occasions I have been there I have felt very lonesome indeed. In fact if it was not for passing gallery staff I think I was the only sign of human life in there. Maybe I went on a quiet day, but I don?t think you will be jostling with many people to get round on most days of the week, unless there is a school or college trip on its way round. Peaceful I would call it. Also in terms of merchandise you can buy many of the exhibits that are on display if you see what I mean, which is unusual for
a museum.The shop has a respectable collection of reproduction design classics you will have just been admiring, Ettore Sottsass condiment set £79.00, Christopher Dresser Toast Rack £85.00, Aldo Rossi La Cupola Coffee Maker £45.00, is this a useful service or just shameless cashing in I don?t know. I suppose its one way of supporting the museum, and its certainly original, a museum that can sell its exhibits and still have them on display. 10/10 for initiative but I find it a bit cynical. Some people would say that a museum like this is nothing but a celebration of capitalism and all the consumer avarice that goes with it, celebrating the biggest advocates of capitalist exploitation over the last 100 years, which is certainly a view and I don?t entirely disagree with it, I think this shop of theirs certainly gives fuel to the argument. I mean design is merely a reflection of the society who made it sometimes capitalist , alternatively communist ( constructivism for example) and sometimes, well you can take your pick from thousands. I don?t want to spoil anyone?s day out but it is one social aspect of the design, manufacturing, social and political environment, that the museum has no real interest in. There is no social context to any of the displays, it is a bit of a beauty pageant, a lot of pretty things with no sense of the social environments that produced them. They do have archives on designers and design movements etc but they tend to be rather insular in a factual sense, I think the discipline of design has more relevance when you put it into its social context. You can actually go to the shop and museum for free regardless of wether you visit the museum or not so at least they are not attempting to screw you for the privilege of buying their stuff as well. If you think about it design and product design is all about social hierarchies, every time you buy a product you are taking part in a system of social construction and interaction. You a
re making value judgements and either contributing or deciding not to contribute to the environment you find yourself in. Designers know this, and use this to not only create their works but also to manipulate the end user into buying their product, and thus the system that created it and the social and political environment we live in. There is more to this than just making pretty things, that people think will make them happy for a while and then we go and buy another one, the system perpetuates itself, but beware this not sustainable indefinitely. Sometime or other the bubble has to pop. Every time you write a review on dooyoo you are making these value judgements, about what something is worth, what it is worth to you, what it is worth to others and what it is worth to society. Bear in mind that some poor chap spent part of his life designing that, and he was thinking exactly the same thing. What I am saying is that unless you see the act of designing in its broader context you are really not seeing it at all. You have to read between the lines It is not a tip toe through the daffodils making pretty things, and I find it rather wearing to have it presented like that every time I go into this kind of place. The social implications of design affect every body and it would be a change to address this when you go into a place like this and not just a celebration of aesthetic prowess. Everything in this collection and the society that produced has had an impact on how we live now, a largely consumer, capitalist based society which shows no signs of changing until it bursts. This museum is a good collection of the way we were, it is a historical collection, of modernism which is no longer modern, modernist principles which are no longer appropriate or relevant. I t may be a lot to ask but I think an institute which sets itself up as the definitive noise on modern design when it is such a part of our daily lives and future should have a bit of a look toward t
he future as well as celebrating the past if it is to retain any credibility at all. The display when I was there was very much from a western perspective, there was no balance of views on what is a very complex and influential discipline. There are a good number of architects and designers from what you might call Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, who have just as valid a role in the historical evolution of design which I just did not see represented. That kind of contrast would have been very enlightening. Like the Russian constructivists I have already mentioned, and other artists and designers from that part of the world. It just goes towards giving a more balanced view of what design, particularly industrial design has been about for the last hundred years. I found the whole experience a bit of a one sided argument. I would not rate the museum as an academic institution, more as a tourist destination, just does not have the resources, or depth, or direction to be more than a bit of fun. For those of us who have studied the discipline it is nice to see these things taken care of and displayed and all in one place etc, and for some one who has a knowledge of the area and want to come and see some of the things they have read about and seen in books also good. I may be wrong and I know they do have an educational policy, which I think is limited to guiding groups of school children round, but I don?t think you will get much more than this. I only object because they have set themselves up in a profile sense as ?The? Design Museum, like they are the definitive word on the subject the foremost authority, because they have a few of the top class artifacts in their possession, and they are not. It is misleading and unrepresentative of what they are. In fact I did not want to write a bad review on this but I was a bit disappointed when I went It was overpriced and the display units were tatty, it looked unfinished in which case why did they
open. If you are interested in interior design and furnishings through history, then there is no doubt the design Museum can not hold a candle to the V&A. For a start it only covers one period in history, modernism, the V&A goes back centuries. The collection at the design museum is rather small and limited and specific, the V&A, on the other hand has a vast collection , too much to have on display at any one time. You could spend all day at the V&A, at the design museum I think you would be crying with boredom if you had to spend more than a morning or afternoon there, they have a quality collection, but there just is not very much of it. I would liken it to a small provincial gallery to the big boys like the V&A, Tate Modern, National Gallery etc in terms of its size and importance. It is reasonably easy to access if you take the District and Circle line to Tower Hill it is about a 10-15 minute walk over Tower Bridge. Having said that there are a lot of other destinations on the south bank, like the Royal Festival Hall, National Theatre, Tate Modern, Tower Bridge, and if you are working you way up the south bank visiting these, then this is just a bit further on. It depends which side of the river you are on. I think that the museum is unjustifiably overpriced at £6.00 for and adult ticket, there is just not enough in there to charge that amount of money, I don?t know what they are thinking at those kind of prices. I don?t want to go on about the V&A, but as far as I remember that was free the last time I went, and as the design museums bigger brother much better value. There is an interesting feature to the museum outside which is a display box called the Tank, it is constantly changing showcase of the most inspiring developments in contemporary design. It contains the work of contemporary and fledgling British designers which is a good initiative in promoting the work of new British talent one of the few unique points about
the museum I liked. I don?t know how you get your work in there but it?s a good incentive to students, something to aim for to say you have your work on display at the design museum, a good idea, it just needs to have a better and more justifiable reputation. All parts of the museum are accessible by level access or lift, wheelchair accessible toilets are on the ground floor. A wheelchair is available. Two disabled parking spaces are available. Opening hours Daily 10am-5.45pm Admission £6.00 adults £4.00 student/concessions £16 family ticket (2 adults 2 children) Website www.designmuseum.org