Design Museum to be independent of London centre

The Design Museum will not be rehoused inside the proposed national design centre for London, it emerged this week.

Trustees of the museum are understood to have voted against the idea of housing the museum within a national centre.

As a separate entity, says Design Museum chairman Luqman Arnold, the museum ‘can contribute to the exhibition and education elements of the priorities highlighted by the Cox Review, but remain a museum with its own independent space.’ Design Council chairman Sir George Cox says, ‘There is still the possibility of co-location, but it is very important that the Design Museum remains an independent organisation.’ He adds that the ‘plans for the London centre are still completely open’.

While it is understood that a preliminary site for a proposed £50m expanded museum has been pinpointed, the plans to build a British design centre are currently much more embryonic. A feasibility study for the London scheme was put out to tender by Creative London this week, and its results are not expected until the end of the spring.

Management consultancies Arthur D Little, KPMG and Grant Thornton have been shortlisted to scope the options for the ‘central London hub’, which is designed to sit at the middle of a network of ‘creativity and innovation centres’. The plans were endorsed by Chancellor Gordon Brown in his pre-Budget speech last year.

However, the museum’s decision to go it alone makes the question of funding a single national centre increasingly uncertain. With no Government or commercial sources of investment yet forthcoming, the concern is that the plan for a national design centre might be watered down.

Arnold voices concern about the level of public funding available. ‘It is not clear at this point how much funding will be forthcoming from the Government for a national centre,’ he says.

Cox describes plans for funding the London centre as being ‘at square one’, but he remains optimistic that funding can be found to ‘get things up and running’.

The decision by the museum is not thought to be linked to the recent departure of museum director Alice Rawsthorn.

Requirements for a London design centre:

• Minimum size: 7400m2

• Annual running costs: £4.6m

• Income from leasing work space and retail space: £2.8m

• Balance to be covered by grant, additional sources or sponsorship

Source: The Cox Review of Creativity in Business

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