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Royal Academy announces new ‘home for architecture’ in London

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David Chipperfield to lead project to create a dedicated architecture space at Burlington House. Two major new architecture awards  also announced

The Royal Academy of Arts (RA) has announced a new commitment to architecture in the form of a dedicated, free-to-enter architecture space, an annual architecture exhibition and two new awards championing both long-term contributions to architecture and new talent. 

The project is made possible by an undisclosed, seven-figure donation from the Dorfman Foundation, the charitable body set up by philanthropic entrepreneur and prolific arts donor Lloyd Dorfman. Led by David Chipperfield, it will restore the RA’s Senate Rooms in Burlington House.

The works form part of the Academy’s wider, £50 million project to link Burlington House and Burlington Gardens with a new two-acre space housing a new lecture theatre and displays in celebration of the Academy’s 250th anniversary in 2018.

RA head of architecture Kate Goodwin and curator Drue Heinz said: ‘We have hit a point where the scope and limitations of our current space are hindering our ambitions. This new space will be a new home for architecture in London, and a new kind of space to experience architecture that will be agile and discursive in spirit.’

Farshid moussavi kate goodwin alan stanton david chipperfield

Speaking of the new programme goodwin added: ‘The RA is perfectly placed to lead an inclusive and vital discussion on architecture, championing quality, creativity and courage.’

The two new awards are the Royal Academy Architecture Prize, which will honour ‘an inspiring and enduring contrubution to the culture of architecture’; and the Royal Academy Dorfman Award, which will recognise emerging talent with a £10,000 prize fund. The inagural awards jury will be chaired by Royal Academician and Sauerbruch Hutton co-founder Louisa Hutton. The RA Architecture prize winner and the Dorfman Award shortlist will be announced in January 2018, with a week-long celebration announcing the winner of the Dorfman Award in May 2018. 

David Chipperfield, who is leading works on the project, said: ‘The important thing for architectural academicians is that we are rubbing shoulders with our other colleagues, and I hope that it becomes a place where we can talk about our subject alongside other academicians, as opposed to forming a huddle.

We have to think about showing architecture in a very different way

‘Architects don’t have exponents, we have to make a narrative and, if you’re not careful, it becomes a bit promotional – we have to think about showing architecture in a very different way.

‘Personally I think the lecture hall will be an enormous contribution to debate. With the lecture hall as a forum, I think we could influence a dialogue, and I have a feeling the architects might benefit more from that. Between all of the new spaces that the extension will give us it’s going to give us a bit more legroom to have a conversation, rather than architecture being something in the corridor.’

Farshid Moussavi, Royal Academician and recent curator of the Architecture Room at the RA Summer Exhibition, said: ‘Architecture needs to be questioned and debated, so what the space for exhibitions will allow the RA to do is investigate architecture outside of its immediate needs and perhaps be more projective.

‘What is great here is that it is central and has already a big, general audience. A space dedicated to architecture will undoubtedly attract architects, too, but here they will be forced to speak not in an entirely hermetic sense. The crowd will be different here, and it will give it a different accent and power.’

Alan Stanton, Royal Academician and founding director of Stanton Williams, said: ‘We are a royal academy of arts, and architecture sits within the culture of the arts – that’s what makes us unique. No other architectural institution or organisation that I know of works in quite that way.

It helps us to remember in architecture that we have this very strong relationship with our colleagues in the fine arts

‘What the RA brings to architecture is that we’re surrounded by artists, sculptors and so on, all of whom are doing fundamental, groundbreaking research. As architects we are all ideas-hungry, so the conversations you can have about the whole culture of art and architecture is a mutually highly beneficial one. It helps us to remember in architecture that we have this very strong relationship with our colleagues in the fine arts.

‘What architecture also brings to the RA is that we widen the audience; we bring in a different kind of audience. With this generous gift from Lloyd [Dorfman] we will have a space and a programme that gives us that potential for doing all kinds of things. We don’t know quite what that will be, it’s going to be quite experimental and we will take it month by month, year by year and it’s going to be a very exciting time.’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • What a wonderful development for the RA , and no better architect to achieve its aims than David Chipperfield , great news !

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