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Chipperfield reveals £49.8m Royal Academy plans


The Royal Academy of Arts has unveiled long-awaited plans to link its two central London bases as part of a £49.8million redevelopment programme

David Chipperfield’s masterplan for the Academy’s main Burlington House building and Burlington Gardens - which is on a site immediately north - will see the Grade II*-listed structures linked by a concrete bridge spanning a 15m-wide service area between them.

The arts school and gallery has occupied the 17th Century Burlington House – designed by Hugh May - since 1867.

The separate Burlington Gardens building was designed by James Pennethorne as the new headquarters for the University of London and completed in 1870. The Royal Academy snapped it up in 2001.

The redevelopment will also see the creation of new exhibition spaces, a double-height lecture theatre in current gallery space at Burlington Gardens, and new space for the Royal Academy’s schools, including permanent exhibition space for students’ work.

Additionally, roof extensions will provide more offices and plant space, while a new courtyard area will be created between the two buildings.

Most of the programme’s changes involve the Burlington Gardens building. However the scheme, which already has planning permission from Westminster City Council and is earmarked for completion by early 2018, will see internal reconfiguration of to the interior of Burlington House’s main entrance, and the creation of a new gallery area in part of what is currently the building’s art-handling corridor.

Chipperfield said he hoped the ‘physical interventions’ of the project would be in the background, with the opening up of existing spaces and the creation of a new thouroughfare between Burlington Terrace and Piccadilly its main focus.

‘You would think it’s quite easy to connect two buildings that are separated by a 15m gap – but finding a route between these buildings was a significant problem,’ he said.

‘While most museum extensions are straightforward additions, this project requires us not to add, but to find a way of connecting something.

‘If most museums are Zurich, this is the Naples of the museum world.

‘There were two previous attempts to connect [Burlington Gardens] to Burlington House. The fact that they failed was because it was difficult to align physical intervention and organisational structure.’

Chipperfield, who was appointed to the project in 2008, said the refurbishment project would open up areas of the Royal Academy buildings that were previously unseen by members of the public

‘The project is an architectural solution embedded in the place itself, a series of subtle interventions , which will add up to something very different,’ he said.

‘You will see the Cast Corridors, you will see where the schools have been all this time. It’s a small amount of architecture for a profound result.’

The scheme, which is still £5million short of its funding target, is due to start on-site in October.

  • Carmody Groarke has designed an exhibition of work by American artist Joseph Cornell that will run at the Royal Academy from July 4 to September 27 this year. It will break down the size of the existing galleries to offer a series of new rooms to display examples of Cornell’s diverse work.



Readers' comments (2)

  • for me Chippo can do no wrong. He balances theoretical weight and real-world execution possibly better than any other living architect, so well in fact that it's difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. Because of this his practice isn't a closed loop but an open ended real contributor to culture. His buildings are eloquent and pithy commentaries of the times, even when not that successful. Nice

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  • Michael Bach

    I just wished he could stick to what he is good at - museums and galleries. His offices (eg One St Pancras Square) look just like his residential development (eg One Kensington Gardens aka De Vere Gardens) with no concession to the use or to the context. The only difference is that offices are taller - otherwise they are twins!

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