‘Run by artists since 1768, we’re celebrating 250 years by opening up like never before. Step inside a new home for art and ideas,’ says the welcome blurb on the website of the Royal Academy of Arts (RA), London’s premier exhibition space and champion of the arts. And indeed, with British architect David Chipperfield at the helm of its most recent upgrade, a new and impressive home it is.
In an effort to promote not just the appreciation and understanding of art but also its practice, the RA has existed to support and advocate the arts and artists. This year, with the newly expanded campus that features free displays and new places to dine, drink and shop, it provides more space than ever to make, debate and exhibit art.
Founded in 1768, it’s the oldest arts institution in Britain. Since 1867 it has been based in Burlington House on Piccadilly, in central London. In 1998 the RA acquired 6 Burlington Gardens, an Italianate building of comparable size located to the north of Burlington House. Originally designed in the 1860s as the Senate House for the University of London, 6 Burlington Gardens has been modified over the years. Its newest renovation and challenge: connecting the Burlington House and Burlington Gardens sites, both physical and ideologically meeting the RA’s identity and function within the building.
Chipperfield assisted with this upgrade, designing a concrete bridge that connects the two buildings, a new auditorium and renovated galleries. The once ‘unloved building’ at 6 Burlington Gardens now connects to the institution’s main building. As a result, the RA now has an exhibition space permanently dedicated to architecture – a first for the institution.
The completed renovation has successfully expanded the amount of publicly accessible space for exhibitions; the 19th-century Burlington Gardens building sits directly behind the institution’s main property in Piccadilly. The completion of the project has significantly expanded the space – where urbanity exists within a cultural programme and historical context.
For more about this project and Chipperfield’s master plan, visit davidchipperfield.com.