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Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly

Design draws on existing building structures while introducing interventions that range from repair and restoration to contemporary elements

Royal Academy of Arts.
Royal Academy of Arts. Credit: David Chipperfield

RIBA National Award winner 2021
RIBA London Regional Award winner 2021

Conservation Award


David Chipperfield Architects for the Royal Academy of Arts
Contract value: £56m 
GIA: 17,000m2
Cost per m2: £3,294

From the initial masterplan approach through to the most minute nosing details, this is an exemplar for the refurbishment and repurposing of historic buildings. 

The project integrates the grade I-listed Royal Academy of Arts on Piccadilly with 6 Burlington Gardens, a grade II*-listed building to the north that was designed in the 1860s as Senate House for the University of London.

 

  • Royal Academy of Arts.
    Royal Academy of Arts. Credit: David Chipperfield
  • Royal Academy of Arts.
    Royal Academy of Arts. Credit: David Chipperfield
  • Royal Academy of Arts.
    Royal Academy of Arts. Credit: David Chipperfield
  • Royal Academy of Arts.
    Royal Academy of Arts. Credit: David Chipperfield
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The masterplan brief called for an ideological as well as a physical link between the buildings. This posed numerous challenges since the two were on different levels and axes, and had different orientations. And the client was reluctant to lose gallery space to circulation.

To unlock the masterplan, the architect sensitively refurbished key spaces, opening up closed-off areas and reactivating zones for the public. Critically, a new circulation route was created to connect the Piccadilly and Burlington Gardens entrances. Key strategic interventions included the use of a brick vaulted former storage space and installation of a new, contemporary in-situ concrete covered link bridge to resolve differences in levels and axes. The bridge creates an engaging journey between exhibits and leaves visitors appreciating what’s on display, but also curious about the buildings themselves. It has opened up the RA School, integrating its activity into the wider organisation.

In the Senate House building, the works reinstated a semi-circular lecture theatre, and created a new cafeteria from the former Senate Room. The external grounds between the two buildings and under the new link bridge have been connected too, creating an enhanced green amenity for staff and students. 


See the rest of the London West winners here

And all the RIBA Regional Awards here

See other RIBA National Awards 2021 winners, Culture, here

 

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