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Design Museum announces relocation plan

The Design Museum is working on plans to relocate from its present riverside site at Butler's Wharf - and could leave Southwark altogether.

Revelation of the plans for a 50 million relocation and expansion coincides with the news that controversial director Alice Rawsthorn has left the museum after five years in charge.

The museum says that discussions regarding the new site have commenced, but a spokeswoman refused to be drawn on whether the museum planned to stay in Southwark or move further afield. The intention is for the new museum to be completed by early 2012.

Rawsthorn's tenure at the museum had been controverisal. In 2004 chairman James Dyson resigned, complaining that the museum was "no longer true to its original vision" and instead had shifted its emphasis from industrial design to iconography and style.

The Design Museum is appointing recruitment consultants to undertake a national and international search for Rawsthorn's successor.

"We want to build on the eighteen year heritage of the Design Museum, to give London and the UK the world's leading museum of design," says chairman of trustees Luqman Arnold. "The strength of the creative industries in this country and the support of all sections of the community make this ambition achievable. The importance of design to the UK, both culturally and economically, has been further highlighted by the Cox Report. There has never been a better opportunity to make this vision a reality."

The trustees are promising an "open conversation" with all segments of the design community and public about the role and content of the new Design Museum.

In the five years of Alice Rawsthorn's directorship, the number of visits to the museum has risen by 40% to over 250,000 in 2005.

Alice Rawsthorn, the outgoing director, said: "I have had five wonderful years at the Design Museum and am very proud of everything we have achieved. I am immensely grateful to the fantastic team at the museum and to all of our collaborators for having been such fun and so inspiring to work with. Having contributed to the exciting expansion plan, I look forward to seeing the Design Museum go from strength to strength in future."

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