A visualization of the Link Bridge viewed from the RA Schools courtyard. Photo: David Chipperfield Architects.

London’s Royal Academy to Open Following $76 Million Expansion

The Royal Academy of Arts in London will open to the public on May 19, following a $76 million expansion project. Led by David Chipperfield Architects, the makeover, which was ten years in the making, was completed in time for the institution’s two hundred and fiftieth anniversary.

The private artist-led academy was founded in 1768 to promote the creation, enjoyment, and appreciation of the visual arts through exhibitions, education, and debate. Its art school (RA Schools) is the oldest in Britain and the only three-year tuition-free program in Europe. The major overhaul of its two-acre campus included the refurbishment of its existing building; the addition of a new lecture hall, inspired by the configuration of Europe’s old operating theaters; the reconstruction of a 260-seat Victorian theater; and the creation of 70 percent more public space. An important new architectural feature is the new bridge between the Royal Academy’s Burlington House, which has been its home for 150 years, and the more recently acquired 6 Burlington Gardens, which was originally designed as the Senate House for the University of London in the 1860s.

“I’m hoping this might take us from one star in the Michelin guide to two or three,” Charles Saumarez Smith, the Royal Academy’s chief executive, said of the transformation. “We’ve never really been a destination for cultural tourists before, as there hasn’t been much to see between the big shows.”