A few weeks ago, the new headquarters of the Royal College of Art opened in London. In the Battersea district, Herzog & de Meuron designed the new campus of more than 15,500 square meters that houses studio spaces, research, flexible laboratories adaptable to different needs.
New spaces look for a refined mediation between research and innovation (multifunctional hangars, robotics labs), while the top level houses conference and seminar rooms for use by the College but also open to outsiders.
In particular, the ground floor houses laboratories and production facilities that support the 4-story Studio Building along Howie Street and the 8-story Research Building prominently located along Parkgate Road. The composition of the volumes at street level determines an in-between condition given by the relationship of the campus spaces and the public ones of the city, and through generous windows the laboratories open up to the neighborhood. Howie Street thus becoming the new main artery of the RCA Battersea Campus.
The flexibility of the interior spaces is contrasted with the robustness of the exterior materials: the facade of the entire ground floor and the Studio Building block is characterized by exposed Flemish bond brick with some parts have an open texture to promote ventilation to the laboratory spaces behind, while the facade of the Research Building is composed of vertical fins that calibrate the amount of light to the interior.
The building becomes – as the architects say – “a civic connector” favouring and encouraging continuous exchanges between the campus and the city.