Making the Design Museum’s new home

Making the Design Museum’s new home

In May the Design Museum was the venue for a fascinating evening of presentations from designers who have recently travelled overseas on Churchill Fellowships. For me, this has a pleasing symmetry, as someone who is not only a Churchill Fellow themselves but was also a key figure in bringing the Design Museum to its new home in Kensington.

Making the Design Museum’s new home
"I gained self-confidence through my Fellowship, enabling me to pursue many exciting opportunities in my career." - Deborah Bartlett, Fellow

The site of the new museum is the former Commonwealth Institute building. The building is well known to me, as my father was also involved in its design and construction, in the 1950s and 1960s while working as a young structural engineer for the London County Council. My father and I, then aged six, actually built a model of the building before construction began.

Little did I know then that many years later I would play an important part in bringing new life and purpose to the building. After it was selected as the Design Museum’s new home in 2008, I was thrilled to be appointed Project Director of the Design Museum’s team responsible for the interior fit-out of the building, led by architect John Pawson. It proved to be a complex and challenging project, and it was a moment of immense satisfaction to me when the new Design Museum opened to the public in November 2016.

At such moments, it’s interesting to reflect on the formative years of my career and spending three amazing months in the USA as part of my Churchill Fellowship in 1973 most certainly influenced my subsequent life. My project back then, which was supported by the Countryside Commission (now Natural England), focused on investigating how the USA’s National Park Service, various State Parks authorities and some smaller, private and not-for-profit organisations, enable large numbers of people to visit and enjoy environmentally sensitive areas without damaging them.

I gained self-confidence through my Fellowship, enabling me to pursue many exciting opportunities in my career, including working on the new Design Museum and my prior role with London’s Olympic Delivery Authority, helping to create the 2012 Olympic Park and then transforming it for its enduring, post-Games purposes.

My Fellowship also opened my eyes to the enormity of the real - as opposed to theoretical and academic - challenges of urban, landscape and building planning and design, and public realm creation and management. Undoubtedly it has had an enduring influence on the way in which I have approached all of the building, regeneration and infrastructure projects that I have tackled since.


The views and opinions expressed by any Fellow are those of the Fellow and not of the Churchill Fellowship or its partners, which have no responsibility or liability for any part of them.


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