London studio Long & Kentish are to lead the project, while Chipperfield will design the interiors. The renovated rooms of the nineteenth century house will available for use by all of the RA's 94,000 registered friends, accessed from the academy's main courtyard or entrance hall.
According to an article in British newspaper The Guardian, the current facilities are "akin to a 1970s polytechnic staff room" despite the Royal Academy having the third biggest friends scheme in the world.
We also recently filmed an interview with Chipperfield to discuss this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, which he is directing.
Here's the full press release from the Royal Academy:
Royal Academy of Arts unveils plans for the Keeper’s House
The Royal Academy of Arts today announced plans to open up and renovate the Keeper’s House to create a series of beautiful, new and much-needed spaces for RA Friends and the general public to meet, relax and enjoy a cultural environment in the heart of London. The major £5.7 million project is led by award-winning architects Long & Kentish with interior design by Sir David Chipperfield RA, newly commissioned art by Grayson Perry RA and other Royal Academicians and a new restaurant by the renowned Oliver Peyton of Peyton and Byrne. Opening in spring 2013, it will allow the Royal Academy to offer more to Friends, Royal Academicians and the general public through increased social spaces, extended opening hours and an exciting public programme featuring talks, debates, workshops and exhibitions.
The Keeper’s House forms part of the eastern wing of the Academy’s historic Burlington House building. It was built in the 1870s as a central London home for the Keeper of the Royal Academy Schools. This project more than doubles the Friends space available at the Royal Academy by opening up a currently unused floor of the Keeper’s House to create a destination restaurant by Peyton and Byrne and a new ‘Garden Bar’. The renovation also vastly improves and modernises the existing two Friends spaces, the Sir Hugh Casson Room and Belle Shenkman Room, by refurbishing them with stylish new interiors by Sir David Chipperfield RA and improved facilities such as a new lift and Wi-Fi. The Keeper’s House will be directly accessible from the courtyard as well as from the Royal Academy front hall allowing this stylish, unique venue to open outside gallery hours. It will be available to the RA’s 94,000 Friends, who provide the RA with crucial financial support, during the day and to the general public most evenings.
Architectural practice Long & Kentish is leading the renovation of the Keeper’s House. MJ Long and Rolfe Kentish formed their architectural practice in 1994 and have huge experience in designing and overseeing the construction of museums, galleries, universities, libraries and artists’ studios and in conversions to existing buildings. The practice grew out of Colin St John Wilson & Partners and their experience and skill is derived from working on projects such as the new British Library. The Keeper’s House development will restore many of the building’s original architectural features, stripping back layers of history to reveal previously-concealed ceilings, floors and the mansion’s original beams, and bring a new lease of life to an historic space in the heart of London.
The Keeper’s House also has a small enclosed garden, and improved access will facilitate the use of this space in the future. The Keeper’s Studio on the top floor of the House was recently refurbished. The project also includes the refurbishment of the Architecture Room, an impressive grand space adjoining the Keeper’s House which will be available for events, and will provide a further space for use by Royal Academicians and RA Patrons.
The reopening will feature artwork by Royal Academicians including Grayson Perry. True to the Academy’s historic spirit of debate, discussion and creativity the Keeper’s House will accommodate a cultural programme – with events such as artists’ talks, book readings, exhibitions and family workshops – that will animate the spaces and attract different audiences. Oliver Peyton is developing a brand new innovative concept for the restaurant which will also feature special culinary events linked to culture such as Great Dinners from History.
Charles Saumarez Smith, Secretary and Chief Executive, Royal Academy, said:
“The Royal Academy has a long reputation as a home for cultural events, debates and talks and as a place to consider the visual arts. I am delighted that this project means we have the space to do more with our public programme and to encourage new groups to visit us in the future. The beautiful plans by Long & Kentish and designs by Sir David Chipperfield which are mindful of the past and the future, are in keeping with previous, well-loved improvements to the Royal Academy.”
Christopher Le Brun, President Royal Academy commented:
“The 94,000 Friends of the RA are our most loyal supporters and we are delighted that our plans for the Keeper’s House mean we can now reward them with relaxing, stylish and culturally-inspired spaces in the heart of London. We are very grateful to our Friends for their continued support and to the Royal Academicians for their creativity and ideas, which have inspired this project and will bring the rooms to life.”
Stephen Fry, Friend of the Royal Academy and Trustee of the Royal Academy Trust said:
“The RA is a unique and unmatchable institution – there truly is nowhere quite like it in the world. When I come here I appreciate world class exhibitions and debates in an environment that feels creative, friendly and homely and I’m thrilled that this quirky home for all those who love art is getting some fresh, new spaces that will help us to enjoy visiting even more.”