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Following Renovation, London’s Royal Academy Schools Expands

LONDON, ENGLAND—A ten-year expansion and renovation project led by David Chipperfield Architects at London’s Royal Academy of Arts and the Royal Academy Schools has been completed, Oliver Wainwright reviews for the Guardian. The redesign has increased the academy’s public spaces by seventy-percent and stitched together a two-acre campus connecting the Royal Academy of Arts’ Burlington House and the RA Schools’ Burlington Gardens buildings through “diagnostic, punctual interventions.” The renovations were completed at a cost of £56 million and coincide with the institution’s 250th anniversary.

“One of the happiest consequences of the need to link the two buildings,” Wainwright reports, “is that the messy, energetic life of the RA Schools, the free postgraduate art school, which has always been hidden away beneath the floorboards of the genteel galleries, is now present.” The RA Schools occupies an industrial building at the rear of the Academy’s nineteenth-century Italianate headquarters, and the new facilities allow for dedicated space for student exhibitions, an opportunity that “might shift people’s perceptions of the RA, from an ossuary of Academicians to a vital place where contemporary art is being made.”

Along with the renovation, interest in the free RA Schools postgraduate program has increased as tuition at London’s other art schools has risen and the Schools’ reputation for traditional art practices has faded. The three-year program admits seventeen students annually, whose living expenses are supported through a bursary. Recent graduates include Eddie Peake, Hannah Perry, Prem Sahib, and Sophie Michael.

Speaking with Ben Luke of The Art Newspaper, Schools curator and head Eliza Bonham Carter said, “developing an art school of changing its direction is a bit like turning a tanker around, because people look at who comes out of a school and what they’re doing. To encourage people to apply who maybe aren’t looking at a school, aren’t finding what they’re interested in reflected in the graduates, takes a long time.”

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May 15, 2018