RCA Battersea South Campus

Learn more about the concept proposals for the RCA's new building at Battersea

The Royal College of Art (RCA) proposals to Wandsworth Council for a £50 million state-of-the art building for postgraduate students and entrepreneurs has been granted, see our press release. 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 its 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). The RCA is the world’s leading Art and Design university and the expansion of the Battersea Campus will enable it to continue to compete globally and attract the highest calibre students and future entrepreneurs.

The project has been designed by Herzog & de Meuron, following an architectural competition. The new building will sit alongside the RCA’s existing Dyson, Woo and Sackler Buildings. It will facilitate the provision of 10 new programmes and the College’s expansion of its research and knowledge exchange centres into the domains of 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 design of the new building incorporates a new café and art materials shop with improved routes through the site which will all be publicly accessible. Other public realm improvements are also proposed.

Dr Paul Thompson, Vice-Chancellor of the Royal College of Art said: ‘The RCA is committed to nurturing the next generation of creative entrepreneurs. We are thrilled with how Herzog & de Meuron have responded to our brief to create our new centre in Battersea to embody this vision, helping us to deliver transformational experiences for our students and ensuring that the UK continues to lead the world in art and design.’

In summary, our proposals will deliver:

  • A new 4-storey teaching building incorporating workshops, studios, teaching and exhibition space
  • A new 8-storey research building accommodating  research space for areas such as materials science, advanced manufacturing and driverless cars, as well as an extended business incubator hub for small business start-ups related to the RCA
  • A new café on Parkgate Road open all year round (9am – 9pm) for both students and residents, providing a social community hub with the potential to accommodate small exhibitions
  • An art materials shop for students and the general public
  • The creation of attractive public space at Radstock Street and proposals to improve Howie Street in the future
  • An additional 265 cycle parking spaces encouraging continued sustainable travel
  • New ‘hangar’ spaces for exhibitions providing more opportunity to open up the building to the public and extend access to our events programme
  • Improved routes through the site, integrating the new building with the surrounding area. This includes an internal link through the site, which local residents can use during the day (9am-6pm). For safety and security reasons, it will not be possible to maintain 24-hour access
  • Public seating incorporated into the design of the building at ground floor level on Howie Street and Elcho Street.

Project timeline*

  • Submission of planning application: 2 November 2017
  • Planning decision: decision anticipated January/February 2018
  • Work to prepare the site: spring 2018
  • Construction: summer 2018 – summer 2020
  • Building open: 2020/21

*Subject to planning permission by London Borough of Wandsworth

See our press release.

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 delivers independent and confidential research space for areas such as materials science, advanced manufacturing and intelligent mobility, as well as an extended business incubator hub.

The Research Building has two distinct aspects. The lower floors are made of brickwork, to create a visual relationship with the Studio Building, punctuated by large windows on Parkgate Road and other openings in the brickwork to provide sight into the building. The upper floors are formed of masonry with solar shades. Each research space is separate, to protect the confidential nature of the ongoing work, which frequently involves external partner organisations.

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 will be 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 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 programmes 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?

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 is the current timeline of the project?

Work to clear and prepare the Battersea South site will begin in spring 2018. Following that, construction will start on the new building in summer 2018 and we anticipate it will be completed in April 2020 and open for students for the 2020/21 academic year.

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?

Public Engagement Manager Hannah Lambert will build on the existing ReachOutRCA programme across our Battersea, Kensington and White City sites. Hannah will work closely with Wandsworth Council and community groups to identify opportunities and encourage participation by schools and others in the local community.

We are also aware the RCA’s Battersea South extension is part of a growing cultural quarter in Battersea, along with Nine Elms, which houses the US Embassy and will be home in due course to Penguin Random House, and Battersea Power Station where Apple will be making their London headquarters.

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.

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 our proposals and receive updates, contact us below or sign up to our mailing list:
020 7871 3565

Public Consultation Cascade
26 Noel Street
London S1F 8GY

Community newsletter
Download our community newsletter here.

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 our proposals and receive updates, contact us below or sign up to our mailing list:
020 7871 3565

Public Consultation Cascade
26 Noel Street
London S1F 8GY

Community newsletter
Download our community newsletter here.

News and eventsIf 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.