Travel

london • design museum & big ben

Oh my god, penultimate London post!! It’s been so long since I was there, but it’s good that I’m finishing this at all, right? ANYWAY, today brings us to the Design Museum (exactly what it sounds like) and Big Ben (also exactly what it sounds like, because I doubt anyone’s completely unaware of what Big Ben is at this point).

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The Design Museum is in Kensington, just next to Holland Park, and I think I’ve mentioned previously that we were living in Kensington so this was, like, a ten minute walk away from our flat. What a dream. You know what’s a ten minute walk away from our house in the US? Nothing. The edge of town where coyotes live. A mailbox. Do you know how far I have to walk to get to a museum?? Or even a grocery store??? Ugh.

But I digress! My point is, the Design Museum covers “product, industrial, graphic, fashion and architectural design” (Thanks, Google!) and is glorious to look at and be inside. I’ve talked about how much I love the V&A, but that’s more of a historic perspective on art, whereas this is more contemporary and goes a little more in depth in regards to the design process.

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The interior is all light wood and sleek lines and marble tile soooo basically if you were an aspiring fashun blogger and wanted a nice backdrop for your outfits? This is the place.

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They also have free wifi! If you don’t mind sitting on hard wood, it’s a real nice place to hunker down and work on your laptop or read for a bit.

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The ground floor stairs lead up to a little level before the proper first floor (this is an awful explanation, I’m sorry) where photographs show the construction of the museum – those black and white photos you can see there.

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And this is the view from those photographs, like facing away and up to the proper exhibition! This is the permanent and free space in the museum – the paid ones are downstairs, if I recall correctly.

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Looking down from that same vantage point, this is the ground floor. The steps look like a hip and aesthetically pleasing version of high school bleachers, right?

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The permanent exhibition focuses on the links between designers, makers, and users and ohmygodguys it is so so so cool. I’m not sure if anyone else does this, but sometimes I stop and think about something, anything, and I’m literally stopped in my tracks just thinking about the process of that thing. Like, the lamp on my desk. Somebody invented the lamp, somebody invented the lightbulb, somebody decided they wanted the lamp to look like this, somebody figured out how to make it, etc etc etc etc, and now I’ve got my little lamp!? That is to say, it’s really interesting looking at all the thought and work that goes into making something that we usually take for granted and don’t dwell on an awful lot – i.e. the design of something!

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The Obama poster!! This is one of those museums where stopping to read every plaque and description doesn’t feel like a chore, because it’s genuinely so interesting. The way something looks and is presented has always interested me, but in a way that I haven’t been able to describe properly, because I lack the vocabulary and technical knowledge and whatnot to do so. Seeing it here, laid out properly by ~experts~*, is really informative. But in a fun way! (Trying to sound like not a total nerd, lol.)

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This is near the end of the exhibition and looks at newer forms of production, I think. (Everything here is “I think”, I should add, because the last time I was here was like half a year ago. Take my memory with a grain of salt.) So this little bit is from Kickstarter and shows some products that have been crowdfunded and able to bypass traditional business models.

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The opening spotlights a bunch of everyday objects and includes some quotes from public figures talking about the objects they’ve chosen (I think Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, talks about the tube logo). Like I said before, it’s easy for us to forget or be unaware of all the work that went into producing a hot water bottle or a pair of Stan Smiths, so when everything is laid out in a grid like this, and you’re looking at it with the thought of “design” in your mind, you’re really able to see it in a new way. The shoes cease to be a fleeting “oh cute, they’re on sale and I saw them on Bella Hadid, I’ll get them” and you start to think about every component, how they interact, how they work, what their purpose is… COOL, RITE?!

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And that brings us to the end of the Design Museum, my dudes! If there’s one recommendation I can wholeheartedly insist on for London, it’s this place. It’s less well-known than the V&A, which is my other top recommendation, so I feel like most people already have that on their list and this might be a new thing. My 3rd rec is the snack aisle in any grocery store, really, with special attention paid to the crisps. That’s it, London itinerary sorted, I’ve put Lonely Planet out of business.

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On this particular day, I met up with my parents later on and we did a walking audio tour to the Rick Steves app (you can find it on iTunes if you just search “Rick Steves Europe”), which my dad was newly obsessed with at the time. We started at Trafalgar Square and walked to Big Ben, listening to fun facts and whatnot throughout.

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Had I a better memory, I probably would remember what Rick Steves told me about this building. As it is, I don’t. Sorry guys.

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Not sure if I’ve talked about this before, but holy balls is London the DREAM tourist destination or what? Look at these maps! So helpful!! So nicely designed!!!! Paris, take notes. Many a tourist could be prevented from angering the local Parisians because they could get their own directions and not interrupt their smoke break or whatever! These are especially helpful for the directionally challenged, such as myself, because the major attractions nearby have arrows, so you can just walk in that direction and you will most likely get there. Cannot say enough good things about these maps, man.

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OK guys, that brings us to the end of this day! I’ll see ya next time for my last London post from last year 🙂

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