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Royal College of Art's Battersea expansion plans approved

The campus expansion is an important part of Royal College of Art's evolution into STEAM

Posted by Lucinda Reid | January 29, 2018 | Bricks & mortar

The Royal College of Art’s flagship new building, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, has been granted planning permission by Wandsworth Council. The building is part of a £108m investment programme in the RCA – the most radical transformation of the institution’s campus in its 181-year history.

The expansion of the Royal College of Art’s Battersea campus is an important step in RCA’s evolution into a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics)-focused postgraduate university. The new building will welcome Arts & Humanities programmes in Sculpture and Contemporary Art Practice, and Design programmes including Design Products, Fashion and Textiles, and Global Innovation Design and Innovation Design Engineering (delivered jointly with Imperial College London). In addition, new programmes will be developed to encompass computer and material science, wearable technology, robotics, advanced manufacturing and intelligent mobility.  

The new campus will also house start-up businesses as part of the university's expanded InnovationRCA incubator programme, which will see the number of supported businesses double. The March 2015 report ‘Research to Assess the Nature and Annual Value of Student Start-Ups’, by HEFCE described the RCA as having “the highest number of student spin-outs with university ownership in recent years in the UK”. Its commercialisation incubator, InnovationRCA, has helped 75 graduates launch 50 start-ups attracting £39 million in funding from investors over the past decade. The new development will help the RCA continue to nurture creative entrepreneurs in areas such as autonomous vehicles, housing, gaming, green design and architecture and design for ageing populations.

The Battersea development is estimated to require financing of £108 million. In 2016 the government invested £54 million. The remaining funds will be secured through a mix of philanthropic donations, and RCA investment.  A comprehensive fundraising campaign, GenerationRCA, will be launched during 2018 to raise further funds for the Battersea project.

Work will begin on the site in spring 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in April 2020, with the new building opening to students for the 2020/21 academic year.

Royal College of Art Vice-Chancellor, Dr Paul Thompson said: “The creation of the new Battersea campus is a landmark moment in the history of the RCA, as we embrace new design and creative disciplines and offer our students unparalleled studio, workshop, and high-tech facilities. It has been a huge privilege working with Herzog & de Meuron on this extraordinary design process; we are delighted by the support we have received from both local and central government in helping us realise an entirely new type of art and design university which will contribute to the developing cultural quarter in Battersea.”

Ascan Mergenthaler, Senior Partner, Herzog & de Meuron added: “The new Battersea campus expansion will be a new centre for the UK and the Royal College of Art’s culture of design innovation and entrepreneurialism at the intersection of science and the arts. Workshops are the nucleus of the College and of the new campus extension. Our design is rooted in the surrounding townscape – it is simple, robust, and flexible, and delivers a formula for the transforming dynamic of the RCA.”

The design of the new building incorporates a double-height space in which large-scale objects can be assembled, prototyped and displayed or exhibitions presented, providing further opportunities to open up the RCA campus to the public and support an enhanced cultural programme. There will also be a new publicly accessible café and art materials shop. Other public realm improvements are also proposed with improved routes through the site to connect the new building to the surrounding area and public space to enhance the entrance to the building.

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