The London Design Museum’s new home, now open to the public, has been greeted with a mixed response from the UK’s architecture critics.
Observer newspaper writer Rowan Moore said it was “an exceptional achievement” that an attraction that first opened in the basement of the V&A now has its own $100 million premises.
But he added the project might have been much more impressive if John Pawson, who designed the interiors, and OMA, which master-planned the site and designed the neighbouring apartments that funded the project, had switched roles.
“This achievement would have been greater if OMA had designed the museum and Pawson had designed the luxury apartments,” he said. “For both seem to be playing out of position, trying to work with situations with which they don’t feel entirely comfortable.”
Moore claimed the site “could have been a truly exhilarating place if it showed more interest in its content and surroundings”, but that instead the converted 1960s building is “a clumsy dance partner for the OMA blocks”.
Guardian critic Oliver Wainwright said the space felt more like a luxury shop or hotel than a major museum.
“The aerial drama feels a bit suffocated by the boxy levels of oak veneer stacked up below, as if a mid-range business hotel had been shoehorned in beneath the great concrete kite,” he wrote.
“Some of the spaces seem a bit squeezed in around the building’s difficult structure, and there are odd moments of feeling like you’re in a building-within-a-building.”
However, he praised museum director Deyan Sudjic for the achievement, given the financial model – created through a deal with Chelsfield, the property developer that owns the site.
“It might not have been the most imaginative choice of architect, and there are compromises in the nature of the partnership, but, given the circumstances, Sudjic has pulled off an impressive deal,” said Wainwright.
Financial Times architecture critic Edwin Heathcote described the project as the product of an age of consumerism.
“The residential blocks outside reinforce this image of architecture’s pivot from radical public vision to private trophy,” he wrote.