Royal College of Art Sculpture Building Officially Reopens

London, January 28, 2009 – The official reopening of the Royal College of Art’s sculpture building marks the first step in the College’s ambitious expansion programme south of the river.

Mezzanine Area in the Refurbished Sculpture School, Peter Cook
Mezzanine Area in the Refurbished Sculpture School
Photographer: Peter Cook

Architects Wright & Wright have created a completely new feel to the previously cramped and often chaotic environment, opening up the space and “succeeded in dramatically improving the building’s internal organisation, environmental performance and external appearance.” Building Design, Jan 23, 2009

The Sculpture Department was moved to a converted factory in Battersea in 1991. By 2004, the building was increasingly suffering from a number of environmental problems: poor thermal performance; inadequate ventilation and light; and a layout which was illegible to a first time visitor, with numerous ad hoc internal divisions added in response to the department’s changing needs.

In response to these problems and keeping to a tight budget of £4.3 million to spend on a floor area of 2,500sqm, Wright & Wright cleared the interior of the building of its earlier additions, reinstating the three halls that comprised the original factory building. These provide excellent spaces for the making of large-scale sculpture. The studio spaces now have support workshops and ancillary spaces.

The most notable addition is a new aluminium roof, with large glazed areas to provide natural light. Externally, grey masonry paint and screening devices are used to unite the various materials of the existing facade. This dark external enclosure contrasts with the brilliant white interior of the studio spaces which form a backdrop for the creative potential of their inhabitants.

This summer, the sculptors will be joined by the painting department in a new building, the first phase of a bigger scheme designed by Haworth Tomkins Architects to combine the Schools of Fine Art and Applied Art, and bring the four Fine Art departments together for the first time in the College’s long history.

The second phase of the new campus will begin in 2010, housing the departments of photography and printmaking as well as a gallery and a large lecture theatre along with accommodation for 30 start-up units for businesses in the fields of art and design.

Sir Christopher Frayling, Rector of The Royal College of Art said:
“With the reopening of the sculpture building we really are well on the way towards realising our new campus south of the river. This is a very exciting time for us all, and we have no doubts that the campus will prove an excellent addition to the area, both for the College and for the local residents.”

With floor space exceeding 7,000 square metres, the development will be car free with 58 cycle spaces and a minibus linking to the Kensington site. Around 250 students and staff will relocate from the main college campus in Kensington.