RIBA London Award

The Royal College of Art, Battersea, London | Haworth Tompkins

The enthusiasm and synergy between architect and client was evident as soon as the judges crossed the threshold. The building is conceived as a creative ‘factory’ in the industrial sense (a place of industry),and through reference to Andy Warhol’s Factory (a place of art production). Four Programmes are accommodated; Printmaking, Photography, Metalwork and Ceramics & Glass. The building is arranged as two parallel blocks with a central top lit ‘machine hall’ between.

The Royal College of Art is the world’s pre- eminent postgraduate art school and it needed its Battersea campus to provide its students with facilities which enable them to be innovative and creative. The Dyson and Woo buildings encourage a cross-fertilisation of ideas. This is the last opportunity that many students will have of occupying bespoke studio space and the RCA offers each student a studio. Built on the old bus garage for the number 19, the complex building carefully moulds to the constraints of the site, acknowledges the past grain, frames a beautiful view to Battersea Bridge and accommodates an industrious hive of creativity and learning.

The brief called for three types of space: process spaces and workshops; individual studios; and spaces for group conversation - all brought together in a very clear pragmatic way and organised in a series of interlocking forms. Additionally to this are incubator units supported by the Dyson Foundation. Open and visual connections respond clearly to the programmes to create a ‘horizontal drift’ between the disciplines – a physical manifestation of the inter-disciplinary thinking

The building or buildings are crafted in a tactile way which responds in tandem with the programmes and activities it contains. The external polished concrete clads an in situ concrete frame, each piece honest in its making.

The effortless, casual and inviting nature to the building belie the carefully composed forms, connections and organisation of the brief. The building is a fluid stage set for the energy within and befitting the growth of creative activity around it in this evolving part of Battersea.

Source: RIBA