About The Conran Foundation

The Conran Foundation is a charity, whose principal activity is the advancement of the education of the public in the study of industrial and manufacturing art and design in its historical, social, artistic, industrial and commercial contexts. It was established in 1980 by Sir Terence Conran who continues to provide its funding.

In addition to partly funding the Design Museum and sponsoring The Conran Foundation Collections, for a number of years The Conran Foundation sponsored the Royal College of Art's Summer Graduate Show. Previous donations include contributions to the Sir John Soane's Museum for its "Wright to Geary" exhibition and to Bryanston School for its Creative Arts Building.

The Foundation's first initiative was launched in 1982 with the seminal Boilerhouse Project. This was a newly built gallery that started life in a unused space in the basement of the Victoria and Albert Museum. This new gallery was intended as a resource for students, designers and the public to stimulate design awareness & discussion. It had many lively, original and acclaimed exhibitions including Kenneth Grange, Issey Miyake, Dieter Rams retrospectives, Sony Design, Coca Cola — a global brand, and the design development of the then new Ford Sierra.


The Boilerhouse Project at the Victoria & Albert Museum 1982


the Design Museum

The Boilerhouse Project metamorphosed into the Design Museum - designmuseum.org - relocating to a purpose-built, modernist building overlooking Tower Bridge. Also funded principally by The Conran Foundation; the founding objective of the Design Museum was to stimulate interest in the design of the industrially produced object. The first museum of its kind; it opened in 1989. Early wide ranging exhibitions included Porsche, Alpha Romeo, the Bauhaus, Charles & Ray Eames and Brunel.


The original Design Museum was housed in a former banana warehouse on Londons Southbank in Shad Thames.

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The Original Design Museum 2009


The Foundation has also supported design in education by sponsoring, for a seven year period, the graduation show at the Royal College of Art; and an MA scholarship with Central St. Martins. It has also supported design in schools through the Creative Education Academies Trust.




THE Commonwealth Institute 

In 2016 through generous public fundraising and further funding from the Conran Foundation, the Design Museum moved into the previous Commonwealth Institute, built in 1962 and famous for its architecturally iconic roof, more accessibly located in Holland Park, Kensington. The acclaimed redesign provides a tripling of the space, three exhibition galleries, an auditorium, library and space for education, which allows a broader representation of design to include architecture, graphics, digital and fashion. In its first year the new Design Museum welcomed some 750,000 visitors.'


An architectural model of the Institute before its opening in 1962


Exterior of the New Design Museum after its restoration by John Pawson and OMA


Interior atrium of New Design Museum after its restoration by John Pawson and OMA