Design ‘complexes’ needed in city centres

All good shows beg a sequel, and so late next month the RIBA Architecture Centre will host Products of Desire 2, offering a second chance to see what architects do, other than design buildings. The show is again supported by Design Week, and it will feature an even broader mix of products and icons than before. The only link is that all exhibits were created by people with an architectural background.

This wouldn’t cause much comment in Milan, where most designers start their professional lives as architects. But here it is less common – and quite remarkable for a body such as the Royal Institute of British Architects to acknowledge that building design is only one outlet for the profession’s talents.

The event also highlights the RIBA’s ability to respond quickly to a brief – probably only three months from start to finish for this show – and to mount a proper public showing. It has exhibition space in central London, it has a café and it has a bookshop. It only lacks a shop selling well-designed items to bring it in line with the old Design Council showcase in London’s Haymarket.

Of course, we in design have the Design Museum, though its docklands site makes it less likely that people will pop in on spec. And sadly it is a one-off.

I subscribe to Janice Kirkpatrick’s view (Private View, 15 March) that Glasgow merits its own “design museum”, focusing local attention on what’s good and available. But what about the rest of the UK?

Public demand is spawning cybercafé-style venues far and wide. Why not therefore a chain of mini design museums, with café, shop and show? Not a bad idea for job creation, and elements of the Conran empire have shown that mixed-use schemes can work commercially. Why not add design events to the recipe?

Better still, why not house the local Business Links office in the complex to bring small businesses and their potential customers together? Or does that bring us back to the old Design Council? Oh well, it was just a thought.

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