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RCA Dyson Building: 'Swanky arts factory' opens doors

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[First look + project data] Haworth Tompkins has taken the wraps of its £21 million Dyson Building for the Royal College of Art in Battersea

Named in honour of British inventor James Dyson, whose foundation donated £5 million towards the development of the project, the scheme is the second phase in the school’s Battersea campus masterplan which started with Haworth Tompkins’ Sackler Building completed in 2010.

The completion of the 3,000m² building, which is home to the printmaking and photography programmes and includes studios, a gallery, and a 220-seat lecture theatre, brings the RCA’s Fine Art programmes together on one site for the first time.

At the inauguration ceremony, which saw Dyson crank out a print on a Victorian machine to mark the occasion, the engineer and philanthropist cited the importance of art and design as his reason for supporting the project.

‘We did it because we believe in supporting bright creative minds. Governments think art and design are nice things to have. But world consumers are increasingly sophisticated, and global manufacturers can make almost anything. Graduates can transform world trade through design. This building will encourage and produce so many great students.’ Dyson said.

RCA Rector Paul Thompson thanked the architects for creating a building ‘which mirrors the way artists practice.’

‘What is so clever is the way in which the architect has mirrored our aspirations. Cut-throughs allow the occupants to observe and interact. This is such an important part of the RCA experience, allowing ideas to spark off each other. This is a robust environment, a swanky arts factory’, Thompson said.

The building is arranged as two parallel blocks with a central top lit hall, designed to house the large presses used by printmakers, at the the heart of the building. A three storey block that fronts Battersea Bridge Road contains retail and business space. At ground floor level the corner of the building facing Battersea Bridge is cut away to give the RCA a and gallery a public entrance and foyer area for the lecture theatre.

Haworth Tompkins won the RIBA competition to commission designs for three buildings on the Battersea site in 2007.

Architect’s View:

Graham Haworth, director, Haworth Tompkins
The relationship between programmes at the RCA is famously interactive and the building has been designed as an open ‘creative factory’ to capture and encourage this spirit. We worked closely with the academic staff and students to bring their vision to life and make a building that supports the College in its continued development as the world’s leading postgraduate art and design school.”  

Project Data

Client The Royal College of Art
Architect Haworth Tompkins
Structural engineers Price & Myers
Services engineers Max Fordham LLP
Project manager Aecom Davis Langdon
Planning consultants DP9
Quantity surveyor Gardiner & Theobald
Acoustic engineers Max Fordham LLP
Total project cost £21,000,000
Start on site January 2010
Practical completion March 2012
Client fit-out March - September 2012
Total gross internal area 4750m²
By department:
Printmaking 947m²
Start-up units 735m²
Communal areas 742m²
Gallery 242m²
Retail 387m²
Miscellaneous Accommodation 82m²
Circulation and plant 905m²

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