BY TOBY PORTER
A college’s £108m revamp has come through its first hurdle after being approved by planners.
The Royal College of Art’s flagship new building, designed by Tate Modern Switch House architects Herzog de Mauron, was agreed by Wandsworth council’s planning committee on Thursday.
The scheme secures the future of the RCA in Battersea and aims to contribute to an emerging cultural quarter.
Already in the area are Vivien Westwood’s design studio, international architect Lord Foster’s HQ, Victoria Beckham’s offices and a beauty salon owned by Tana Ramsey – wife of Gordon.
Global entertainment mogul Simon Fuller’s firm 19 Management – which represents David Beckham – is also nearby.
Gordon Ramsay is planning a restaurant there and Apple is planning to move into the refurbished Battersea power station site.
The planned building is part of a huge investment programme in the RCA – the most radical transformation of the institution’s campus in its 181-year history.
The expansion of the Royal College of Art’s Battersea campus is an important step in RCA’s evolution into a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics)-focused postgraduate university.
The decision to grant permission for the new space will enable the RCA to take forward its ambitious plans to expand its offer to students and create a new centre for learning and research.
The new building will provide an additional 15,500sqm to the RCA’s Dyson, Woo and Sackler buildings, and will welcome new programmes to encompass computer and material science, wearable technology, robotics, advanced manufacturing and intelligent mobility.
The flagship building will also house new research centres, including the Burberry Material Futures Research centre and start-up businesses as part of the university’s expanded Innovation RCA incubator programme, which will see the number of supported businesses double.
The new development will help the RCA continue to nurture creative entrepreneurs in areas such as autonomous vehicles, housing, gaming, green design and architecture and design for ageing populations.
Work will begin on the site in spring 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in April 2020, with the new building opening to students for the 2020/21 academic year. The RCA will continue to liaise closely with the local community on the next stages of the project.
Royal College of Art Vice-Chancellor, Dr Paul Thompson, said: “The creation of the new Battersea campus is a landmark moment in the history of the RCA, as we embrace new design and creative disciplines and offer our students unparalleled studio, workshop, and high-tech facilities.
“We are delighted by the support we have received from both local and central government in helping us realise an entirely new type of art and design university which will contribute to the developing cultural quarter in Battersea.”
The Battersea Society supported the expansion of the RCA. But it raised issues around: ‘Movement around and through the site by pedestrians.’
A spokesman said: “The drawings are unclear as to how much of, and when, the public realm will be open to the public,” the society’s report said. “This is important as the route offers a lightening of the density of the ground level and a useful foot route avoiding the pollution on Battersea Bridge Road.
“We urge TfL to work with the RCA and to use this development as an opportunity to address the many problems along this stretch of Battersea Bridge Road, not all related to the RCA site.”
Some residents consulted about the scheme said it was too big, too tall, or did not fit in with the surrounding conservation area.