Saturday, January 21st 2017
We took a trip to Kensington to visit the Design Museum. Everything that is made by humans is first designed, even if the design is merely the vaguest notion in the back of the maker’s mind. Design is therefore the prerequisite for everything we do and make. Design has been a preoccupation as long as the human race has existed but, like art and like fashion, it has been influenced, sometimes profoundly, by the culture in which it is embedded and the changing philosophies of designers. Like art, it is subject to fads and fashions and changing aesthetic theories. This makes a museum of design interesting and indeed essential.
I am not a designer nor am I particularly interested in the theory or practice of design. I am the sort of person who looks at things and either dismisses them out of hand or finds them interesting and, in that case, probably photographs them. So, of course, I took photographs in the Design Museum. What interested me there was not so much the exhibits (though I include a token example, just to show willing) as the building itself. To say that it is open plan is true but does not do it justice. Perhaps the photos will give some idea of why it impressed me. Some photos I post without comment or explanation, letting them speak for themselves.
We stopped off in Baker Street, at number 55, to be precise, for a late breakfast at the branch of Paul’s Patisserie there. This company is French and I was looking forward to quality coffee and croissants. Tigger, happily for her, chose tea whereas I opted for coffee, which I drink black. All I can say about it is: Paul, votre café c’est de la lavasse.
On arriving at the Design Museum, we made a happy discovery, a sculpture by Eduardo Paolozzi, entitled Head of Invention, that has been sited here. Paolozzi is famous for his human figures that are made of metal and very obviously in separate parts, like components of a machine. One of his best known is his rendering of Blake’s portrait of Isaac Newton in the forecourt of the British Library in Euston Road. There is, however, a lot more to this artist than his trademark metal bodies as can be glimpsed in this Wikipedia article.
The building housing the Design Museum is already striking enough. It was built in 1960-2 and was designed by Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall and Partners to be the home of the Commonwealth Institute. The building had remained unused for a number of years before it was fitted out as a modern museum, opening as such in 2016. It is now a Grade II* listed building.
This is the token exhibit that I mentioned above. The idea is to augment the body’s natural strength, not so much to produce a superman or superwoman, but to provide help to disabled or elderly people who find common activities difficult. More details are available here (note the video).
Now for the other pictures which, I think, explain themselves. They are often scan shots composed of several frames stitched together which makes them appear small here so you might like to click on an image to see a larger version. In some cases, there may be a small amount of perspective distortion.
Attached to the Design Museum, as is the case with most museums these days, there is a museum shop where you will find books toys and gadgets for all ages, mostly on the theme of design and making things.
I should mention that the Design Museum holds special exhibitions for which it may be necessary to buy tickets but that admission to the permanent collection is free and photography is allowed there.