When the new Design Museum in Kensington Gardens, London opened to the public on the November 24th, many aesthetically astute Brits flocked to the new “palace of culture.” There they found the post-war (landmarked) relic, originally designed for the Commonwealth Institute by Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall & Partners and opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1962, reincarnated and open once again. However, despite director of the museum Deyan Sudjic recruiting the likes of John Pawson and OMA for the renovation, the reaction to the $104 million museum has been mixed. The exhibitions inside, though, have enjoyed a much warmer reception. The inaugural exhibit, Fear And Love: Reactions to a Complex World features exhibition design by Sam Jacob Studio and eleven diverse installations from the likes of Andrés Jaque, Neri Oxman, and OMA/AMO.

(Courtesy Gareth Gardner)

(Courtesy Gareth Gardner)

“To design the first show at the new Design Museum was both an honor and a challenge—a way to mark a new era in London’s design culture,” said Jacob. “The subject of Fear and Love was always more of a mood than a statement. Our design attempts to embody this ambivalence in a way that adds mystery and imagination.”

(Courtesy Max Creasey)

(Courtesy Max Creasey)

The London-based designer has employed a 623-foot-long pleated felt curtain that articulates the installation spaces and acts as a fluid circulatory device as it meanders through the rectangular exhibition area. With breaks interspersed throughout the curtain trail, views across and into each of the installations are created, opening up what would be tight corners to form a coherent space.


While this material carries warmth with it on its journey through Fear And Love, the use of gray translucent PVC bares the opposite (and perhaps even hints at love in another sense). Working with graphic designers OK-RM, signage within Fear And Love displays information on a series of freestanding, bent steel frames of which have been given a protective, passivated finish, giving a modern and iridescent look. This aesthetic is furthered through a neon two-way mirror totem that displays the words “FEAR” and “LOVE” to those passing by the exhibition inside the museum.

(Courtesy Max Creasey)

(Courtesy Max Creasey)

Justin McGuirk, curator of Fear And Love and chief curator at the Design Museum, said: “Sam Jacob Studio’s exhibition design was central to setting the mood of Fear and Love: it creates a dream-like space that, in the most elegant way, heightens the sense of uncertainty that the exhibition explores.”

Meanwhile, Chloë Leen, who spearheaded the project for Sam Jacob Studio commented: “It has been a great privilege to work with 11 designers at the forefront of shaping contemporary practice. Our design creates a unifying experience, choreographing these varied complex ideas and installations, while the spaces and moods of the exhibition design give each a distinct quality. This duality was at the heart of the de-sign challenge that the museum’s curatorial position presented.”

Fear and Love runs through April 23, 2017.

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