The Royal Academy of Arts has announced plans to open up and renovate the Keeper’s House to create a series of 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.
The Keepers House was built in the 1870s as a central London home for the Keeper of the Royal Academy Schools. An integrated but autonomous space within the eastern wing of Burlington House, the Keeper’s House bears the hallmarks of Palladian architectural style, inspired by 16th century Venetian architect Andrea Palladio and designed by Sydney Smirke RA in 1866. It features a rusticated ground storey, weighty voussoirs over the door and a triangular pediment above and balustrade below a large south-facing window. Although little has changed on the outside since it was built in the 1800s, the inside of the Keeper’s House tells a different story and has accreted layers of construction and decoration, reflecting an intriguing and varied history of many occupants and functions at the Royal Academy.
The 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.
Founded by Sir Hugh Casson in 1977, the Friends of the Royal Academy is one of the largest membership organisations of its kind in Europe. Benefits for Friends of the RA include unlimited access to one of the most broad-ranging and ambitious exhibition programmes in the world; special Friends Previews for each exhibition; family and guest passes to exhibitions; the quarterly RA Magazine; e-newsletter and access to a dedicated website for Friends of the RA. For further details visit: www.royalacademy.org.uk/friends
The Royal Academy of Arts (or RA) was founded in 1768 through a personal act of King George III. It is an independent institution led by eminent artists and architects – the ‘Royal Academicians’ – and its purpose is to be a clear, strong voice for art and artists. The RA welcomes approximately 1m visitors per year and is internationally renowned for its programme of exhibitions and events of the highest quality. It remains true to its origins though as a place where art is made, exhibited and debated. It is home to the annual Summer Exhibition – now in its 244th year – which remains the world’s largest open submission contemporary art show, and to Britain’s oldest art school. The latter is unique in offering the UK’s only three-year full time postgraduate art course. The current membership of Royal Academicians includes many of today’s foremost artists and architects such as David Hockney, Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley, Zaha Hadid, Sir Norman Foster, Michael Craig- Martin, Grayson Perry and Tracey Emin. The RA is a registered charity that relies upon funds from its activities and on the support of sponsors, donors and its loyal Friends, to continue its work.