The Design Museum has paid tribute to its founder, Sir Terence Conran, a designer, philanthropist and businessman, who has died at the age of 88.
Described as a visionary mentor, leader and philanthropist, Conran founded the Design Museum in Shad Thames in 1989 following an innovative start as the Boilerhouse in the basement of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
His ongoing commitment and support to the museum was recognised with a medal for Arts Philanthropy in 2012 and in 2017 the Queen awarded him the Order of the Companions of Honour for his major contribution to the arts. Terence was the subject of a monographic exhibition The Way We Live Now at the Design Museum in 2011 to coincide with his 80th birthday.
Terence founded Habitat in 1964, the furniture company that he grew from a single, high profile outlet in London, to a national and international chain. As the founder of the Storehouse Group he acquired the Heal’s furniture business, set up Next and ran British Home Stores and Mothercare. Terence continued to be involved in retail after he opened the first The Conran Shop in 1972, with eight stores located in London, Paris, New York and across Japan.
Terence was also at the forefront of professionalising design in Britain throughout his life. Founded over 60 years ago, The Conran Design Group demonstrated the best of design in Britain, specialising in interiors, hotel and restaurant design, graphics, products and homeware. Terence would also go on to establish an architectural practice with Fred Lloyd Roche called Conran Roche and eventually became Conran and Partners.
Alongside design, food was also one of Terence’s great passions and he became a renowned restaurateur. His first restaurant, with Ivan Storey, The Soup Kitchen, opened in London in 1953 and he went on to open many more including Pont de la Tour, Bibendum, Orrery, Quaglino's and Mezzo. His restaurant interests extended to Paris, New York, Copenhagen and Tokyo.
“Terence Conran was instrumental in the re-designing of post-War Britain and his legacy is huge. He is revered by generations of designers from Mary Quant and David Mellor to Thomas Heatherwick and Jonny Ive. He changed the way we lived and shopped and ate. He also created a great institution – the Design Museum - of which he was justifiably proud and with which he remained fully engaged right to the end of his extraordinary life. It was a privilege and an inspiration to know him,” said Tim Marlow, director and chief executive of the Design Museum.
Deyan Sudjic, Director Emeritus, Design Museum said: “No one has done more to create modern Britain than Terence Conran. He spent his whole career looking for ways to make life better for everyone.”