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Herzog & de Meuron Wins Royal College of Art Design Competition

The acclaimed Pritzker Architecture Prize and Praemium Imperiale-winning practice Herzog & de Meuron has won the invited competition to appoint architects for the Royal College of Art’s new state-of-the-art £108m Battersea South campus.

As Chair of the Architectural Selection Panel (ASP), RCA Rector Dr Paul Thompson noted that Herzog & de Meuron was the 'clear choice of the competition jury'. The jury – which included architecture MA student Marcus Cole alongside Alan Leibowitz, Ricky Burdett and Paola Antonelli – assessed an exceptional shortlist of seven international architectural practices, selected from a total of 97 expressions of interest received from practices around the world.

The competition called for a strategic design approach to a new centre for the world’s pre-eminent art and design university’s Battersea campus. Herzog & de Meuron's submission demonstrated a deep understanding of the potential for Battersea, making new connections and foreseeing the possibilities for sustainable place-making.  

Saying that he was delighted to win the competition, Pierre de Meuron noted that the RCA set a challenging brief to look forward and visualise the spaces needed to deliver innovation and expertise. As he remarked, the Battersea site offers ‘an opportunity to rethink the RCA campus and establish the patterns of connectivity and organisation that will make a successful building’.

Dr Paul Thompson said: ‘We set out a competition to find the very best architect to crystallise our vision for a new heart to the Battersea campus; we were very impressed by Herzog & de Meuron’s mastery of our brief. We are looking forward to working with Herzog & de Meuron to develop a concept, in consultation with our partners and stakeholders.’

Calling the brief ‘ambitious’ and one that ‘invited participants into our own thought process at a very early stage’, Dr Adrian Lahoud, Dean of Architecture and ASP member, thanked all the shortlisted teams for the intelligence of their provocations and the richness of their ideas. 

Bringing the student’s voice to the process, RCA Architecture, RIBA Pt 2 student and ASP member Marcus Cole said that it was ‘a privilege’ to observe and contribute to the competition’s adjudication: ‘As a student, it is rare to have the opportunity to engage with different approaches at such a high level.’

The RCA is transforming into a dynamic STEAM-focused graduate university (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths/Medicine), expanding 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.

Professor Naren Barfield, Pro Rector of the RCA and ASP member, said the College looked for a practice 'that truly understood the nature of the RCA’s vision and design practices, and could conceptualise a building that is both innovative and flexible to adapt to the emerging disciplines and collaborations that will define the future'. He added that Herzog & de Meuron’s approach concept embraced all of these factors, giving 'a new configuration of space typologies to explore the expanding frontiers in learning and research in art and design, and especially where these meet technology, engineering and science to transform STEM to STEAM'.

Following in the wake Dezeen's 'Hot 100', which placed the RCA as the world’s most popular design and architecture school, and Herzog & de Meuron as #3 overall, the announcement marks the end of an international competition. The Royal College of Art will now work with Herzog & de Meuron and Mott Macdonald & Equals Consulting, who are leading the multidisciplinary professional team, to develop the initial concept design.

Working closely with the RCA, Malcolm Reading Consultants developed a competitive selection model that combined an invited process for creative leadership alongside the selection of other professional services from the Multidisciplinary Panel, a widely-used technical framework operated by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). Malcolm Reading, who organised the global search, remarked that the exceptional shortlist was 'a measure of the RCA’s influence and standing in the design community worldwide'.  

The six runner-up practices (in alphabetical order) were:

Christian Kerez (Switzerland)

Diller Scofidio + Renfro (USA)

Lacaton & Vassal (France)

Robbrecht en Daem (Belgium)

Serie Architects (UK/Singapore)

Studio Gang (USA)