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New-look Florence Hall begins Portland Place overhaul. . .

The RIBA is set to celebrate the successful completion of its Florence Hall renovation and prepare the way for a series of other building projects at Portland Place - including a ground floor bar.

The hall, which has had a makeover designed by James Soane at Conran & Partners and overseen by the institute's house architects Allies & Morrison, will be launched on 28 February by the architects, alongside president Marco Goldschmied and chief executive Richard Hastilow. It will kick off a CABE-backed exhibition in the Florence Hall from 1 March to 18 August - '2001 - An Architectural Odyssey - the renaissance of public space in Britain', which looks at the 'explosion' of Lottery projects from around the country and their legacy to the country.

The Florence Hall will also be available for hire as an evening revenue-generator for the RIBA, featuring a new sound system, projector and furniture.

The old Patisserie Valerie cafe will make way for a new cafe, run by Milburns Restaurants, which provides catering at the V&A and the Globe Theatre. That will also allow flexibility and 'significantly higher income for the RIBA', a c c o r d - ing to premises committee chairman Simon Allford. He has written a report for next week's RIBA council session on the matter.

The institute will shortly settle on a name for the new cafe as a result of its rebranding work with Pentagram, Atelier Works and The Fourth Room.

But the Florence Hall is not the only physical change at Portland Place. Allies & Morrison (A&M) has also been commissioned to produce a costed feasibility study to Stage C and obtain listed building consent for a reworking of the council chamber.

The room has been considered a 'hostile' and confrontational environment in the past - the aim is to make it less 'adversarial'.

Other major projects planned for the year include a bar on the ground floor to 'prolong debates after lectures', similar to the effect of the bar at the AA, said A&M's Robert Maxwell, a new 'members' room' with Internet links, the refurbishment of the Aston Webb Room, space for an information centre, work on the heating system and the refurbishment of both the Jarvis Hall and Foyer by October.

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