Royal College of Art Unveiling £135m Development of Battersea Campus

The Royal College of Art’s new £135 million campus development is being unveiled today in Battersea, south-west London.

battersea rca

The Royal College of Art’s new £135 million campus development is being unveiled today in Battersea, south-west London.

If the design reminds you of Tate Modern’s 2016 extension, it should. The RCA’s new building was created by the same Basel-based architecture firm, Herzog & de Meuron, and the two structures share a similar texture and outline. 

Having been founded in 1837, the RCA is one of the most famous art schools in the world. It remains the world’s largest institution for postgraduate art and design studies, with 2,300 students currently enrolled. Its illustrious list of alumni include the likes of Henry Moore, David Hockney and Tracey Emin.

The RCA has expanded to have three campuses in London. Still based in South Kensington, it now spaces in White City and Battersea, with the latter campus specialising in fine arts. 

The new development in Battersea more than doubles the size of the campus, including a public exhibition space known as The Hanger. Other key additions include a new four-storey studio building on Howie Street and a linked eight-storey research and innovation centre on Parkgate Road. The exterior consists of 450,000 bricks.

To encourage private investment, the UK Treasury announced a  £54m “matching” grant on the project. This attracted a number of private donors, including a £15m donation from the Sigrid Rausing Trust, a Swedish philanthropic organisation. The Spiegel Family Fund also gave £8m.

Brexit and Covid-19 have each generated serious problems for the RCA. The number of students joining from the European Union fell by 60 per cent last September, and the university warned, in their latest annual accounts, that “Our financial sustainability is highly sensitive to our student numbers and it is uncertain what the longer-term effects of the pandemic and Brexit will be.”

In opening the new Battersea campus, the RCA is also setting out to double the percentage of “Black British and People of Colour students and researchers from under-represented backgrounds.” This will involve more scholarships and funds, some which will come in the shape of Sir Frank Bowling scholarships, awards bearing the name of the famous Guyanese-British artist.

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