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December 22, 2016, 12:51 PM

The Modernist icon that made way for the Design Museum

By Sara Morel

Design Museum ęStyle Salvo

Design Museum in Holland Park ęStyle Salvo
Shellac display from old Commonwealth Institute ęStyle Salvo
Commonwealth products ęStyle Salvo

London West, UK - The original concrete roof of the former Commonwealth Institute building remains the centrepiece of the new Design Museum, now open in Holland Park.

The Grade II* listed Commonwealth Institute building is remembered by the sixties generation, especially schoolchildren in London for whom a visit provided a fascinating insight into the geographical scope of the Commonwealth and its legacy of colonial Empire. Whilst a fascination with the Commonwealth Institute's shellac samples is a sign of my generation amongst the displays of every type of agricultural product, timber, mineral and produce recently won at auction (see photos).

Unfortunately I never saw inside the old Commonwealth building, which was gutted internally and had most external features removed. Around 3,000 square metres of flooring and cladding, all from Commonwealth countries around the world, were reclaimed by Architectural Forum in Islington which also bought the bank of fifty four aluminium flag poles set prominently along its boundary with Kensington High Street. You get a glimpse of the glory in Koto Bolofo's photo diary of the 4 year construction project displayed in the museum.

Architectural Forum sold around 2,000 square metres of reclaimed West African opepe woodstrip hardwood flooring to a client in New York, whilst other buyers included a woman in Windsor whose mother had been a cleaner at the Commonwealth Institute. Other varieties of wood included tulipwood flooring, teak woodblock from south east Asia, and T&G Seaboard pine cladding from Canada which was one of British Columbia's largest logging companies when the Commonwealth Institute was built in 1962.

At the time of writing all the wood Architectural Forum reclaimed has been sold, but they can still sell you a flag pole with Great British provenance.

Sara Morel, Reclaimed Woman

Architectural Forum

Commonwealth Institute flag poles at Architectural Forum
Design Museum

Story Type:  News

ID: 98185

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