Commonwealth Institute London, Chelsfield Partners, Architecture, Redevelopment, Ilchester Estate

Commonwealth Institute Restoration by OMA

Celebrated RMJM-designed building, Kensington High Street, England design by OMA architects

13 Jul 2009

Commonwealth Institute Redevelopment

News Update : Plans for a New Home for the Design Museum

In April 2009, Chelsfield Partners and the Ilchester Estate submitted a planning application for a new home for the Design Museum and associated residential development on the former Commonwealth Institute site in Kensington High Street.

At a meeting last week, the members of the Borough’s planning committee expressed their warm support for the Design Museum’s proposals to create a new 100,000 sqft museum within the Parabola, the former Commonwealth Institute building. There was also encouraging feedback which will help fine tune the residential development which complements the Parabola.

Discussions continue between planners and developers concerning the height of the residential buildings, to comply with the Design Museum’s timetable.

The Parabola’s refurbishment and new use will give a neglected London icon a new life and purpose and will invigorate this part of Kensington High Street.


Commonwealth Institute Redevelopment Exhibition

Though not yet released to the press, the Dutch practice’s £150 million scheme for the 1962 grade II* listed building, on Kensington High Street, was exhibited to the public from 3pm on Thursday within the dilapidated RMJM-designed structure.

The project – which is yet to be submitted for planning – would see the removal of the administrative buildings and entrance structure.

According to the public exhibition boards, this will “liberate the main exhibition hall, enabling the modernist monument to be fully appreciated as a ‘tent in the park’”.

OMA and developer Chelsfield Partners also propose creating three orthogonal residential blocks next to the landmark building, of six, eight and nine storeys containing a total of 63 units.

The blocks – which have been compared to Russian dolls – will feature balconies, projecting bays and recessed terraces, and will be clad in tiles of varying size and material “to create finer scale and pattern”.

Competition winner : OMA – Rem Koolhaas + Reinier de Graaf

Commonwealth Institute London
Commonwealth Institute Image © OMA

Location: Kensington / Holland Park, west London, UK

Scope: Restoration + new-build residential
Developer: Chelsfield Partners
Architectural adviser: Ricky Burdett

Commonwealth Institute site redevelopment architect : OMA

Original building:
Architects: RMJM
Key feature: hyperbolic paraboloid roof
Status: Grade II* listed
Date: 1960’s


Commonwealth Institute
photo © OMA

Rem Koolhaas and Reinier de Graaf of OMA have been selected as architects for the restoration and revitalisation of London’s world-famous former Commonwealth Institute building and grounds – for the Design Museum London – it was announced today. The owners of the site are a joint venture between the original owners, the Ilchester Estate, and Chelsfield Partners.

The architects will now develop proposals for the site and a planning application will be submitted at the end of the year.

OMA was selected by the site owners from a shortlist of six international architects which included Rafael Moneo, Rafael Viñoly Architects, Eric Parry Associates, Caruso St John, and Make Architects.

Commonwealth Institute Building
image © OMA

The site owners were advised by a jury chaired by Paul Finch OBE (Editor of the Architectural Review), and including Councillor Daniel Moylan (Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Planning at RBKC), Lord Cunliffe, Catherine Croft (Director of the Twentieth Century Society), Professor Richard Burdett (Centennial Professor in Architecture and Urbanism at the London School of Economics) and Sir Jack Zunz (Former Senior Partner of Arup), together with representatives of the site owners.

Rem Koolhaas said: “OMA was excited by the prospect of collaboration on the building and intended on taking a respectful approach to developing the 60s icon. OMA will explore a number of uses appropriate to the existing design, capitalising on the buildings dynamic interior spaces. Careful consideration will be given to the relationship with Holland Park, possibly extending the park across part of the site, removing the walls between the site and Holland Park and constructing a number of residential buildings.”

Sir Stuart Lipton of Chelsfield said: “We are delighted that OMA has been chosen as architects, and we feel sure that the practice will produce buildings complementing the innovative and bold spirit of the original designers.”

Paul Finch, Chairman of the jury, said: “This was a closely contested ideas competition with some formidable talent brought to bear. The winning designers showed a combination of respect for the past and an attitude to the future which the jury found highly convincing.”

The Former Commonwealth Institute building is listed Grade 2* and has been empty since 1995 despite attempts by the Commonwealth Institute to find an appropriate use for this innovative architectural building.

On purchase of the site, the new owners undertook a programme of research about the site dating back to the 18th century and particularly the period prior to the construction of the Institute building. Lord Cunliffe, one of the original architects of the building from RMJM, and James Sutherland, the original engineer kindly agreed to act as advisers for the project.

During the research period, consideration has been given to appropriate architectural responses for the restoration and revitalisation of the Pavilion building in order to bring life back to the site which occupies a key position in Kensington High Street.

Over the last year, a consultation process has taken place listening to the views and ideas of local residents, local societies and interest groups. This has proved to be extremely helpful in identifying the potential future uses of the Pavilion building and the approach to new residential development.

Commonwealth Institute images / information from Bolton & Quinn 180308

Location: Kensington High Street, West London, England, UK

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Commonwealth Institute building original architect : RMJM

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