Founded in 1768, the Royal Academy of Arts is the oldest arts institution in Britain and has a unique position in being led by artists and architects whose purpose is to promote the creation, enjoyment and appreciation of the visual arts through exhibitions, education and debate. The Royal Academy’s art school is the oldest in Britain and is regarded throughout the world as a centre of excellence.
Since 1868 the Royal Academy has been based in Burlington House on Piccadilly, in central London. The acquisition of 6 Burlington Gardens, originally designed as the Senate House for the University of London in the 1860s, enables the Royal Academy to extend and expand its facilities directly to the north of Burlington House.
The masterplan promotes a development with a light touch, and refurbishment of the two listed buildings. This approach draws on the generous existing building structures and ensures that historic building interventions are kept to a minimum and are sympathetic to, and in some cases enhance, the historic fabric.
A central public link will connect Burlington House and 6 Burlington Gardens both physically and in spirit, allowing the Royal Academy to extend its programme into 6 Burlington Gardens and to provide better visitor and back-of-house facilities in Burlington House. The public link will also reveal the “behind the scenes” workings of the institution.
The transformation of 6 Burlington Gardens will include: the contemporary reinstatement of a 260-seat auditorium, the restoration of a series of listed rooms to accommodate a third run of galleries, and additional retail and catering facilities. The Royal Academy Schools will be partly reconfigured and extended, improving the facilities available to students and making the Schools a visibly integral part of the institution.
The transformation of the current facilities for Friends, Patrons and Royal Academicians in one of the oldest parts of Burlington House has recently been completed and is now open to the public. Further key elements of the Central Link masterplan have received planning and listed building consent. The incremental implementation of the masterplan in the years leading up to the 250th anniversary of the Royal Academy in 2018 has the potential to secure the Royal Academy’s role as one of the world’s leading independent centres for visual culture.