Amid media coverage about the creation of a new £80m design museum one of the original founders has raised questions about the future of design.

Designs for the new Design Museum for Kensington High Street. Photograph: OMA.
Designs for the new Design Museum for Kensington High Street. Photograph: OMA.

In an opinion piece in the Telegraph newspaper, Stephen Bayley speculates that both design and the concept of the museum as a physical space may be in terminal decline. “The original Thames-side site in Heseltine’s ‘Docklands’ […] was intended to stimulate interest in a then neglected area, an advertisement of ‘design’ as an agent of beneficial change. Yet the new location on Kensington High Street may confirm cynical suspicions that ‘design’ is only a specialised branch of shopping.”

He contrasts the waning power of design in the 21st century with his and his co-founders’ conviction in the 1980s that the discipline was of vital importance to the economy. “The old beliefs that ‘design’ can transform industries are under severe test,” he says.

Bayley speculates that soon the physical museum may be rendered obsolete by technology. “André Malraux used to talk whimsically about a ‘museum without walls’: soon, it will be with us. I confess that if we had had apps in the Eighties, we might not have built a solid concrete museum housing a collection of objects.”

He ends on a note of optimism however, with the comment that the 21st Century Design Museum will “adapt to new realities and change perceptions once again”, showing that the reports of the death of design are greatly exaggerated.

We want to hear what the landscape profession thinks about these issues. Is design dead? How might a museum (physical or virtual) go about curating landscape design or design in its broadest sense? Post your answers in the comment section below this article or email


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