Thursday - 30 October 2014

£36m plan to link both halves of the Royal Academy and upgrade facilities

25 November 2013Written by Tom Derbyshire

The Royal Academy has outlined its masterplan for what it is calling the most significant revamp since it moved to Piccadilly in 1869.

Details for Reveal, Celebrate and Explore (2014-18), as the project is dubbed, were revealed at the same time as the success of a £12.7m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Connecting the two main buildings forming the RA - Burlington House and Burlington Gardens - which are now separated by a 20m space, is key to the scheme, which should be completed in time for the Academy's 250th anniversary in 2018.

The RA bought 6 Burlington Gardens, behind the existing premises, in 2001 and this masterplan will integrate it properly with the current exhibition spaces and facilities. The RA seemed unclear of what to do with the extra space and it was rented out for a time. It had partly been used for commercial gallery purposes and contemporary art dealers Pace opened there in September last year.

The West Wing area they occupy was once the Museum of Mankind and it has also been used by the now-defunct Haunch of Venison gallery.

A public central link between the two RA buildings will create "an arts campus of just over two acres in the heart of central London", said the RA, and boosting teaching and attracting young people seems to be a main aim.

"The link will increase visibility of the RA Schools, which are currently hidden from view," said a spokesman. The intention is to underline the RA's involvement in education and training artists.

The conversion will preserve the fabric and historic features of Burlington Gardens, internally and externally while creating a purpose-built learning centre and 300-seat, day-lit, auditorium. And it will also bring more exhibition space for contemporary works while upgrading the RA's online offer.

The Guardian reported that the RA still needs to find £7m to go with £29m already raised for the project but the RA was confident it would succeed.

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