The Dyson building, designed by award-winning architects Haworth Tompkins, is the most significant new development to the Royal College of Art since it moved to Kensington Gore in 1962 and forms the centrepiece of the RCA’s new Battersea Campus.
The development sits alongside the RCA’s existing Painting and Sculpture Programmes on the site. It connects with and provides a boost for ‘Creative Battersea’, which currently boasts the headquarters of Vivienne Westwood, Foster + Partners and Will Alsop, amongst many others. As well as containing the Printmaking and Photography programmes, the building is also home to a 220-seat lecture theatre, a public gallery and the College’s business incubator.
The building is conceived as a creative ‘factory’ both in the industrial sense (as a place of industry), and through the reference to Andy Warhol’s Factory as a place of art production. The building’s aesthetic is functional and derives from the way it made with an in-situ concrete structure exposed throughout and used expressively to form a series of dramatic interlocking spaces.
A large top-lit ‘machine hall’ links the two blocks and forms the heart of the building, designed to house the large presses used by printmakers. A more public zone of retail and business space is arranged along the street frontage, whilst the corner facing Battersea Bridge is cut away to give the RCA a public entrance, a gallery and foyer area for the lecture theatre.
A key characteristic of the RCA’s success is the fluid relationship between programmes. The building has been designed to create “horizontal drift” between disciplines, and the creative processes take place in highly visible proximity to one another. The cross-fertilisation of ideas that is present and encouraged on the courses also is enhanced through the additional inclusion of Innovation RCA within the main building, blurring the boundary between the academic and the commercial. InnovationRCA provides business support and incubation services to help students and graduates protect and commercialise pioneering design-led technologies successfully.
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