Inside

RCA Battersea South Campus

Learn more about the RCA's flagship new building at Battersea

The Royal College of Art (RCA) is moving forward with plans to create a state-of-the-art building for postgraduate students and entrepreneurs, following our planning approval by Wandsworth Council in January 2018. The building is part of a £108 million investment programme that will secure the RCA’s future in Battersea and deliver new studios, workshops and incubator units required to support the College's future growth.

This new flagship building is part of the RCA’s most exciting phase in its 181-year history, marking its transformation into a dynamic STEAM-focused postgraduate university (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics). As the RCA is the world’s leading Art and Design university, the expansion of the Battersea campus will enable the College to continue to compete globally and attract the highest calibre students and future entrepreneurs.

The new building has been designed by Herzog & de Meuron, following an architectural competition and will sit alongside the RCA’s existing Dyson, Woo and Sackler Buildings. It will provide space for ten new programmes and the expansion of research and knowledge exchange centres to include computer and materials science, the impact of the digital economy, advanced manufacturing and intelligent mobility. These areas of research and learning are critical to the UK economy, and the RCA has already attracted partnerships with world-leading businesses, including collaborations with the likes of Hyundai and Burberry.

The project will also bring benefits to the local community with a new café and art materials shop, a public engagement programme, and improvements to the area of Radstock Street in front of the Research Building. Attractive landscaped, pedestrianised public space will be created with seating and widened pavements, together with proposals to improve the surround area Howie Street in the future.

Battersea is increasingly becoming known as London’s new creative quarter, with a wealth of cultural assets and a growing number of galleries. Innovative tech companies are moving in, including Apple, which is making Battersea its UK headquarters. Our new flagship building will add to this vibrant mix and aligns with the London Borough of Wandsworth’s ambitions for the area.

In summary, the project will provide:

  • A new 15,500sqm centre for learning and research providing distinct areas for teaching, innovation and research
  • Improved routes through the site to link the new building to the existing Battersea campus and surrounding area, making access easier for everyone
  • A double-height covered street hangar space for large-scale objects to be assembled and exhibited
  • A new publicly accessible café and art materials shop and attractive public space at Radstock Street. (The RCA also hopes to seek permission, with other local stakeholders, to improve Howie Street in the future)
  • New research centres, including the Burberry Material Futures Research Centre, and increased support for small graduate start-up businesses through an expanded InnovationRCA incubator programme
  • Additional cycle parking spaces to encourage continued sustainable travel
  • An enhanced cultural programme

Community engagement

Artist and Senior Research Fellow Rut Blees Luxemburg is leading a project directly related to the new building, involving both students from Arts and Humanities and the local community, see our press release

Over the next four years, Rut will be working with students to produce work documenting the progression on the building and those involved so that future generations of RCA alumni, staff, students and historians have a clear view of the College’s future.

RCA Public Engagement Manager Hannah Lambert is building on the existing ReachOutRCA programme across our Battersea, Kensington and White City sites. Hannah is working with students and our local communities, not just in Battersea but around Kensington and White City too, creating opportunities to engage with school children and local residents to ensure that the RCA plays its full role in our local community. She can be contacted here.

Project timeline

  • Demolition: Early summer 2018
  • Construction: Autumn 2018 – spring 2020
  • Building open: 2020/21



For more information about our Battersea building project, read our FAQs:

Why is the RCA investing in a new building?

The RCA recognises that in order to maintain its global status and compete with other institutions it has to continue to attract the best calibre of students. The College therefore has to offer new and innovative programmes, extend its research, increase its partnerships with industry and continue to offer world-class facilities.

This is supported by extending our campus at Battersea as we have outgrown our existing buildings and will soon be unable to meet the high demand for student places.

Battersea has been our home for over 25 years and is fast becoming a new creative quarter with Vivienne Westwood, Foster and Partners, and Simon Fuller all located nearby, as well as independent galleries and other innovative companies such as Apple moving in to Vauxhall, Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station. The expansion of the College's facilities will add to this cultural offer.

What will the building look like?

Our new building (approximately 15,500sqm) has been designed by award-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron and is designed in two distinct parts, each with its own function.

The Studio Building provides three floors of naturally lit and ventilated studios located above ground-floor workshop spaces, which are the creative hub of RCA Battersea. The building is formed of a series of horizontal layers, providing a continuous strip window to maximise sunlight and create overhangs on the upper floors to provide shade.

The ground floor is punctuated with large picture windows, allowing passers-by to see into the activity inside and in places the brickwork becomes an open perforated pattern to provide natural ventilation. On Howie Street and Elcho Street, public seating is embedded into the ground floor design of the building, sheltered and lit from the upper floors. The roof has two north-facing roof lights to echo the existing RCA buildings.

The Research Building will accommodate space for areas such as materials science, advanced manufacturing and intelligent mobility, as well as an expanded business incubator hub for small business start-ups related to the RCA.

Currently an amendment is being proposed to the planning permission already granted relating only to the upper floors of the Research Building. The project team has continued to look at how the façade responds to the internal functions of the building and has developed ideas to address the need for the internal space to be subdivided in different ways into the future to accommodate changing needs within innovation and research.  

The new proposal is that the materials on the upper levels would change with the removal of bricks from the design in favour of the glazing and metal profile and fin elements. The redesign introduces a varying pattern of glazing and solid areas of façade enabling the flexibility internally and better light quality.

The fins are made of aluminium making them easy to maintain with the matt finish reducing the potential for light reflect and ensuring the quality of the finish is maintained in the future.  

Low levels of lighting in the building will ensure our neighbours are not impacted by light spill at night.  

The Research building remains exactly the same height and mass as the approved scheme and key features of the scheme, including the public internal routes through the site, public space, café and art materials shop and additional cycle parking will still be provided.

Benefits of the revisions include the building being lighter in appearance, the internal accommodation being more flexible for the RCA, and the fins used on the exterior are prefabricated reducing the scheduled building time and avoiding the need for scaffolding for this part of the work.

How will the new space be used by the RCA?

The existing buildings, including the College's Moving Image Studio and Sculpture Building, the BP petrol station and the two MOT garages are being demolished and replaced with a new campus building. The new campus will include workshops, studios and teaching space housed in one building, which runs the length of Howie Street and is four storeys, and a new eight-storey research building on Parkgate Road housing InnovationRCA, research and conference facilities.

Will the public be able to access events and exhibitions in the building?

The RCA is an academic building and the teaching, workshop and research spaces are therefore not open to the public. There will be a route through the building from Howie Street to Parkgate Road, which will be open to the public between 9am and 6pm.

As part of the new building, the RCA will have a new café on Parkgate Road and an art materials shop on Howie Street, both of which will be publicly accessible.

Previously the public has had access to the existing Dyson Gallery and the new building will allow for more public access to the RCA's engagement programme and events. A number of public programmes, talks and exhibitions are advertised publicly and are open to visitors from outside the College, including the annual Summer Show and Secret Show.

If you would like to be kept up to date with news and events from the RCA, please sign up to receive our e-newsletter here.

How is the project being funded?

In 2016 the Government invested £54 million towards the Battersea South project. The remaining funds will be secured through a mix of philanthropic donations and RCA investment. A major fundraising campaign, GenerationRCA, will be launched during 2018 to raise funds for the RCA’s ambitious plans.

The investment by central government will have an estimated return to the UK economy of £8 for every £1 invested.

How many students are there at the RCA currently and will this increase in the future?

How many students are there at the RCA currently and will this increase in the future?

The RCA currently has 2,000 students and is seeking to grow its student number to 3,000 over the next four years.

How many staff are currently employed at the RCA now and will this increase as a result of the proposals?

The RCA employs more than 1,000 professional staff spread across three sites – Kensington, Battersea and White City, including scholars, art and design practitioners, specialists, advisers and distinguished visitors. We expect that number to grow in relation and proportion to our increased student numbers.

What new programmes and research centres will the Battersea campus host?

With the ambition to introduce 10 new programmes, four new research centres and two new knowledge exchange labs, the overall intention is to shift the RCA’s focus to become a STEAM-led university, focusing more on the interaction between art and mathematics and science.

The new building will house Arts & Humanities programmes in Sculpture and Contemporary Art Practice, Design programmes including Design Products, Fashion and Textiles, and Global Innovation Design and Innovation Design Engineering (delivered in partnership with Imperial College, London). New programmes will also be developed in computer and material science, wearable technology, robotics, advanced manufacturing and intelligent mobility.

Are the new programmes scheduled to start once the building opens?

Some of the new programmes have already begun, and some will be introduced in the next couple of years.

What will happen to the existing Schools housed on the site while you develop the site?

Existing programmes in the School of Arts & Humanities will be relocated within the College’s existing campus, preserving proximities to essential services and technical workshop facilities.

What are you doing to minimise the impact of construction on the community and environment?

The site is registered with the National Considerate Constructors Scheme (CCS) and Keir are our demolition contractors. We will work with our contractors on the timeline and the impact of the schedule throughout the development. They will work closely with Wandsworth Council, neighbouring developers and businesses to ensure that construction works and deliveries are coordinated and undertaken in an efficient manner. Traffic marshals will also be on site to ensure vehicles comply with the construction and traffic management plan.

In terms of the environment, our contractors will regularly inspect the site hoardings and keep the site clean and tidy while also monitoring the noise, dust and vibration throughout the project. We are committed to ensuring our new building reflects the very latest thinking for environmental performance. We are confident that we will achieve the BREAAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) ‘excellent’ status, and we’ll be introducing measures to encourage more environmentally conscious behaviours throughout the RCA.

How are you involving the local community?

The London Borough of Wandsworth has a thriving arts and cultural community and the RCA is absolutely committed to contributing to this community. We will work with a variety of neighbouring institutions to devise a programme of events to interest and engage the local community while keeping in line with the purpose and ethos of the RCA.

RCA Public Engagement Manager Hannah Lambert is setting up a Community Engagement Forum to meet quarterly and share updates and news about our programme. If you are interested in joining this group please contact Hannah here.

The community will continue to have the opportunity to hire the exhibition space at the Dyson Gallery, based at our Battersea site. We have hosted exhibitions by Spare Tyre including Women of Wandsworth and Moving Portraits, as well as the Battersea Society’s film night.

What consultation has the RCA undertaken?

The RCA has undertaken extensive consultation with both internal and external stakeholders and we continue to encourage an open dialogue with the community. We listened to the feedback and concerns from community groups prior to our planning application approval and made the appropriate changes to the final design including adding more windows to provide greater insight into the activity taking place in the building, improved lighting of the building at night, lighter brick tone and extending cafe opening hours.

Contact us

If you want to find out more about the Battersea South project and receive updates, contact us below or sign up to our mailing list:

construction@rca.ac.uk 
080 8281 9554

Community newsletter

Download our May community newsletter (PDF)
Download our spring community newsletter (PDF)
Download the previous community newsletter (PDF)

News and events

If you would like to be kept up to date with news and events from the RCA, please sign up to receive our e-newsletter here.

Contact us

If you want to find out more about the Battersea South project and receive updates, contact us below or sign up to our mailing list:

construction@rca.ac.uk
080 8281 9554

Community newsletter

Download our spring community newsletter (PDF)

Download the previous community newsletter (PDF)

News and events
If you would like to be kept up to date with news and events from the RCA, please sign up to receive our e-newsletter here.