HRH The Prince of Wales presented Sir Terence Conran with a medal for Arts Philanthropy on 18 December. The medal celebrate his support of the arts in its widest forms and recognise the contribution of the most inspiring supporters throughout society.
Sir Terence Conran isn’t just a philanthropist at all his support of design in the UK has been monumental. His generosity in giving £50m to the creation of the Design Museum and to its predecessor, the Boilerhouse, over the past 31 years is unanimously applauded by the design community. He has also nurtured the careers of young designers, including Thomas Heatherwick the designer of the 2012 Olympic cauldron, and has served as Provost of the Royal College of Art, where his foundation also sponsored the summer graduate’s show for many years. In the meantime, he has helped to fund design shows elsewhere too, such as at Sir John Soane’s Museum. Throughout his life, whether he is making it, selling it, teaching it or championing it, Sir Terence has simply been an evangelist for good design.
Conran was greatly inspired by the Triennale exhibition in Milan, and was determined to create a similar event in Britain. In 1981, the Boilerhouse project opened in what had previously been the unused and dilapidated basement of the V&A. Like so many Conran ventures, it soon became popular. The collection was relaunched in 1989 as the Design Museum, moving to new premises in Butler’s Wharf, with the help of a large gift from the Conran Foundation. It is now one of the world’s leading museum devoted to architecture and industrial design. In September, work started on the redevelopment of the classic midcentury modern Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington.
It will soon be the new home, the Design Museum tripling the exhibition space in size and offering a massively expanded education programme. This has largely been made possible by Sir Terence, who contributed a cash gift of £7.5m as well as the proceeds from the sale of the lease of the old building, which is valued at around £10m.
Sir Terence Conran is one of world’s best known designers, restaurateurs and retailers. Born in 1931, he founded the Conran Design Studio in 1956 and later the Habitat chain of home furnishings stores that revolutionised the British high streets in the Sixties and Seventies by bringing intelligent, modern design within reach of the general population.
Terence formed Conran Roche, a new architecture practice, in 1980. The firm undertook the renovation of some of London’s iconic landmarks, including Michelin House, Butler’s Wharf and the Bluebird garage on the King’s Road. He also founded the Design Museum, a towering neo-Brutalist home for British design in Butler’s Wharf.
In the Nineties, Terence set up Conran Holdings, a new group of designers, retailers and architects working across the world. The company takes on a diverse range of product, brand, interior and interactive design work, which adheres to a core philosophy: that intelligent design improves people’s quality of life.
In 2009 he opened the Boundary in Shoreditch, a restaurant, rooftop bar & grill, caff, bakery and foodstore with 17 individually-designed bedrooms, and Lutyens, a large restaurant and bar on Fleet Street with a charcuterie counter, crustacea and sushi bar, members’ club and four private dining and meeting rooms.
Terence designs furniture for Marks & Spencer, Content by Conran, Benchmark and The Conran Shop, and has written over 30 informative books that broadly reflect his design philosophy, selling over 20 million copies of his publications worldwide. They include The Essential House Book, Terence Conran on Design, The Ultimate House Book, Easy Living, Design: Intelligence Made Visible, Outdoors and Terence Conran’s Inspiration. He was until recently Provost of the Royal College of Art, and is an honorary professor of the University for the Creative Arts.
The Honourees for The Prince of Wales Medal for Arts Philanthropy 2012
Sir Terence Conran
Sir Peter Moores CBE, DL
Mr Mathew Prichard, CBE, DL
Sir Gerald Elliot & Lady Elliot
The Lady Rayne
Dame Theresa Sackler (2011 Honouree)