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Grimshaw sheds glass skin for RCA extension rethink

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Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners is radically reworking its designs for a £22 million elliptical extension to the Grade II-listed Royal College of Art. A proposal to envelop the structure, adjacent to the Royal Albert Hall, in a glazed skin has been dropped in favour of a mixed-material facade - possibly mixing brick, zinc and glass. A row of penthouse studios is also to be re-worked.

Grimshaw unveiled the idea for a completely glazed extension in May, to give the RCA a striking design with which to win potential sponsorship (AJ 31.5.01). 'Now the designs have been taken a step forward, ' said project architect Graeme Dix.

'By using a mix of materials in the facade we can manipulate daylight coming into the extension.

One possibility is to incorporate a glazed section which does not face north or east. A glass skin allows us to view the inner structure, but in reality the glazing would give the kind of natural lighting you would find in an average office building - not at all satisfactory for the RCA.'

The five-floor scheme, replacing the RCA's Gulbenkian Hall by Colquhoun, Miller and Partners, will create 3,000m 2of much-needed space for teaching design and fine and applied art. It will provide studios for painting, new technology and drawing, one floor for research and will also expand two existing departments.

Throughout the design process the overriding consideration has been the RCA building's listed status and its sensitive location. In fact, the curved shape of Grimshaw's design is intended to complement the Royal Albert Hall's circular form.

Grimshaw anticipates submitting final designs to Westminster council in December.

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