The Royal College of Art’s new Battersea campus – forceful and distinctive

Herzog & de Meuron’s ruggedly handsome new building, home to everything from ceramics to robotics, aims to connect with the wider locality while preserving the college’s creative spirit I am sitting among fellow journalists, listening to the vice-chancellor of the Royal College of Art, Paul Thompson, talk of a £135m new building, the largest ever undertaken in its 185-year history. It will, he says, put the RCA “firmly in the vanguard of creativity at an international level” and enable its “interdisciplinary thinking to solve global issues”. These words, bland going on platitudinous, contrast with the building, which looks forceful and distinctive. Herein lie the central questions for both the institution and its architecture. Can its continuous growth of student numbers (from 1,040 in 2010 to a projected 3,300 in 2027) and revenue, its pursuit of global status and Treasury patronage, be achieved without compromising the spirits of adventure, curiosity and anarchy that helped shape past alumni such as David Hockney, Ian Dury, Ridley Scott, Tracey Emin and Chris Ofili? As Oliver Wainwright wrote in the Guardian last week, there are reasons to be concerned that there may indeed be conflicts between corporate ambition and a free spirit. The building, though, designed by the famous Swiss practice Herzog & de Meuron, creators of Tate Modern, provides a framework for what could be a great art school. Continue reading...

Post a Comment