Bosses blame ‘complexity’ of £80m Commonwealth Institute refurb

The Design Museum has pushed back the move to its new home at west London’s Commonwealth Institute following delays caused by the “complexity of the renovation” of the Grade II* listed structure.

Currently based at Butler’s Wharf in south-east London, the museum was originally due to move to the 1960s-built modernist structure in 2014 after an extensive refurbishment masterminded by John Pawson Architects.

The opening of the £80m museum - which will see the creation of 10,000m2 of new space, including permanent-collection display areas, two temporary exhibition spaces, and a 192-seat auditorium - was subsequently pushed back to late 2015.

Now it has emerged that the Design Museum has agreed a six-month lease extension on its current premises – bought last year by Zaha Hadid Architects - kicking the move to the Commonwealth Institute into the second half of 2016.

A museum spokeswoman was unable to confirm a precise opening date for the museum at the Commonwealth Institute, but indicated autumn 2016 was now the target.

“We plan to close to the public [in Butler’s Wharf] in the summer of 2016, and there will then be a number of weeks for decanting and making good the building before we vacate it,” she said.

“The opening date for the museum has moved a few times, we are now looking at 2016 although we do not have a confirmed month at this stage.”

She added: “The move to a 2016 opening date is not the result of a particular problem with the project - it reflects the complexity of the renovation of a listed building.”

The museum’s current exhibition schedule includes events at Butler’s Wharf that run up to the end of June 2016.

Mace is main contractor for the Commonwealth Institute project - which has a total value of £105m because of three residential blocks included in the scheme - but declined to comment on the cause of the delay.

However, a source close to the project told Building Mace was on course to hand over the Commonwealth Institute next month for fit-out work to begin.

The source described the delay as a “minor” one reflecting the “complex engineering challenge” of the project, where “Mace wants to get the quality right, rather than rush and compromise”.

The museum’s most recent update on the progress at the Commonwealth Institute, issued last month, said all of the building’s floor slabs were now in place and work on the glass cladding installation for the exterior had commenced.

As Building reported last year, Mace was forced to deviate from original plans to demolish the building’s original slab floors from the second storey down and dig out a new basement area after it became evident that the strategy would not be a “programme friendly” approach for prompt completion of the scheme’s residential blocks.

Instead the contractor opted for a top-down construction approach, which required more temporary work to prop up the whole building while the excavation took place, but allows the basement shared by museum and residential element to be completed earlier.