The Royal Academy Schools' refresh celebrates clarity at the London institution

The refreshed home for the Royal Academy Schools by David Chipperfield Architects together with Julian Harrap Architects is revealed in London

royal academy schools studio space with top light
(Image credit: David Parry)

Following a surgical, five-year-long refresh, the Royal Academy Schools in London, have unveiled their new home – courtesy of David Chipperfield Architects (also behind the Royal Academy Arts' expanded campus in 2018), who worked with heritage specialists Julian Harrap Architects towards a delicate redesign of the education institution's main base on Piccadilly. The buildings, now to be called The Julia and Hans Rausing Campus as a nod to the lead gift that made this important restoration and reimagining possible, have now received the art students who have been invited this week to occupy their new home and work on-site towards the end-of-year shows that approach. 

royal academy schools cast corridor

(Image credit: David Parry)

Royal Academy Schools: a delicate refresh

With the RA Schools, DCA took its signature, gentle and respectful approach in giving the formerly cramped and tangled studio spaces a much-needed makeover - while ensuring the buildings' - and function's - character is not lost along the way. To this end, indeed the redesign feels gentle - 'you might not realise any work has been done,' the architects say. Yet it brings strong clarity to the overall complex, removing partitions and mezzanine floors, adding space - including a small new build, glulam-roofed extension off the architecture studio - and rendering the entire school now fully accessible by removing unnecessary level changes and adding accessibility measures where needed. 

royal academy schools studio space interior with art in progress

(Image credit: David Parry)

As the Schools spread across the RA's two buildings, Burlington House, and Burlington Gardens, there is a strong north-south axis to their masterplan. This was counteracted by the architects' confident tackling of the east-west axis, as they not only refreshed the Cast Corridor that runs along it, but also placed key communal functions, such as the canteen and library in parallel to it too. 

royal academy schools studio interior with artists working

(Image credit: David Parry)

Meanwhile, the studios have been redesigned and subtly uncluttered, now feeling taller, brighter and airier. The Courtyard is also now open to the school staff and students, where they can not only get fresh air but also admire the bridge that connects the two main RA campus buildings. 

royal academy schools the life drawing studio

(Image credit: David Parry)

Eliza Bonham Carter, curator and director of the Royal Academy Schools, said: 'The RA Schools provides a free, independent programme invested in artistic development at postgraduate level. A space for study and art making, committed to the questions that arise from making art now. This renovation of the RA Schools makes it fit for the years to come and provides outstanding conditions for our students. An art school in Burlington House on Piccadilly is the clearest possible signal of the RA’s commitment to the teaching and practice of art.'

royal academy schools new studio space with glulam ceiling

(Image credit: Dave Parker)

'A healthy education, like a healthy diet, should include variety. This requires the opportunity to encounter a wide range of thinking processes and approaches. Education in the arts at all levels engages students in problem solving, which leads to innovation and engagement with complexity. In a healthy society this should be available to all. We look forward to welcoming visitors to the new campus during the next graduation exhibition, the RA Schools Show 2024, in June.'

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).