This year was a little different for the departments London Design Trip. An earlier point in the school year, and the day itself started with our arrival in Kensington, to a structure once known as the Commonwealth Institute...
It's been two months after the brand new Design Museum has opened its doors in Kensington, a project led by architect John Pawson. And all were excited to see what this new home had to offer.
The trip over Tower Bridge to the museum's old location was missed a little, and it's fair to say the building at Shad Thames will always have an important part to play in the Design Museum’s story, but the new building is a masterpiece. Firstly, it's not really a “new” building at all, but it certainly feels it and has been reimagined for its new purpose. The retrofit and restoration of the existing space has been masterfully carried out, with the rejuvenated residential blocks as part of the project as well.
Many years in the making, this grand new, accessible space gives the discipline of design a real boost, and the exhibitions play a very important role in this.
Pupils were first directed to the permanent (and free) exhibition: Designer Maker User. This exhibition curates some of the museum’s most iconic permanent collection pieces in a new way. Showcasing their stories from three different perspectives: from how the designer conceived the ideas, through to details of the manufacture of well known designs, through to how the user views everyday products, and how important they are to our every day life.
It is the department’s view that everything in this display will be of huge value to the pupils’ exam studies, and proved even teachers don't know everything: one of the best bits for Miss Hill was discovering that her favourite “love to hate” Juicy Salif lemon squeezer is die cast in a three part mould, not the traditional two. It was also great to see other design classics displayed in such an engaging way. It will certainly provide much discussion and reference material as we start to tackle more revision.
Alongside Designer Maker User was a small temporary exhibition that was a surprising hit with the Sixth Form. "New Old: Designing for Our Future Selves" explored the relationship between design and an ageing population, and the imaginative concepts that this subject matter draws from designers. Some of the Repton staff enjoyed a fantastic discussion with some of the L6 and U6 boys on “what age is old age?”.
The museum had set up an interactive board to display visitors responses, and the boys wasted no time in contributing with insightful statements such as “old age is a state of mind” and “its important to still feel useful in old age.”. An impressively mature response from our students.
The final exhibition to be viewed by the group was Beazley Design of the Year Awards; showcasing conceptual and realised ideas across a range of design industry areas. This was a real opportunity to for those students interested in a career in design to really see the breadth and imagination of the solutions presented by both established and new designers.
Some of the students were particularly intrigued by the running trainers on display made from recycling fishing line, alongside a flashing bike helmet to improve cyclist safety. Pertinent to events in the world; there was even a full scale mock up of a refugee shelter on display. Luxury and need, all in one exhibition.
You can read about all the winning designs, which were announced later that same day by clicking the link below.
More time was available to us this year, because of the Design Museum’s move. It was a short 20 minute walk to the V&A, and some of the pupils got a little star struck along the way when they met the actor Andrew Lincoln, (Love Actually, The Walking Dead); who was kind enough to stop for a couple of photos with the pupil! (We seem to spot someone every year, be it reality TV star or royalty!)
As perfectly summed up in the opening text to the 20th Century Furniture and Product exhibition, product design is and was, a major tool for social and economic development and progression.
This exhibition gave the pupils an insight into how modern design evolved, and how some designs remain very current today. It also enhanced by the contrast of the beautiful Victorian Library the items are housed in.
On arrival at Exhibition Road, pupils were given time to walk round and absorb a huge range of exhibitions in the V&A, including the 20th Century Furniture gallery.
Often the focus of key questions in the A Level exam, it gave an opportunity for the pupils to view iconic designs and see the journey of 20th Century design. Product analysis is such a key feature of the syllabus, that they can now hopefully appreciate the materials and manufacture of the products on display a little more.
Some of the pupils also managed to find the modern silver jewellery display tucked away on the third floor, which contained some stunningly impressive pieces of work.
Always a hugely beneficial day for the Sixth Form and the Design Department, after the opportunity to shop, dine and wander around Knightsbridge, it was time for the group to return to Repton, a little more enriched for what they had seen during the day.