Project in Detail
The Royal Institution of Great Britain
London, United Kingdom
Farrells, London, United Kingdom
Refurbished Classical Facade
Simon Warren - Simon Warren Photography
The redevelopment of the Royal Institution of Great Britain is an extremely successful project and an exemplar of how a 200 year old Grade I listed building can be redeveloped for contemporary use in the 21st Century. The project re-opened to the Public in October 2008 after a Grand opening ceremony conducted by HRH Queen Elizabeth II. The Royal Institution sits within the Mayfair conservation area of London. Planning took 6 years and involved extensive dialogue with various heritage groups including, the Georgian Group, English Heritage, the Victorian Group and Westminster City Council.
The success in the redevelopment and enlargement of the Royal Institution is based on 10 fundamental principles that provide a framework for all aspects of the project:
1. Building, Regeneration, Restoration and Repair of Grade I listed heritage fabric
2. Re-zoning of uses in the building in a clear and ordered way
3. Mental mapping – creating a coherent and legible building for all users through clear horizontal and vertical circulation routes
4. Mission, Meaning, Purpose and History – to ensure the building tells the Ri’s story through interpretive display of the achievements completed within the building during its history
5. Enlarging the Public Accessible Space – Café, Bar, Restaurant, Museum
6. New Feeling, Ambience and Character to the public space – ensuring the new spaces breath new life into the building, reflecting the 21st Century
7. Providing New Hospitality – Making the Ri fully accessible throughout both the day and the evening, and providing the back of house facilities to allow events to be held within the spaces
8. Outreach – New Spaces to communicate and demonstrate science to children, high quality refurbishment of the Faraday theatre to continue the tradition of Christmas lectures
9. Directors flat – A new residence on the rooftop of the Ri with spectacular London rooftop views.
10. Science and Media Centre – To continue the mission of making science accessible to all.
Key achievements include:
The insertion of a new atrium and scenic lift. The atrium’s look and feel is modern 21st century using steel and glass, bringing light, clarification of circulation and a new meeting space for the building. Heritage facades have been revealed and clarified, giving deeper understanding of the buildings rich heritage.
The Complete restoration of the classical front façade using roman cement and lime based paint, returns the façade to its rightful glory.
Rationalising the circulation and opening deep views into the building from the street draws people into the building as they pass and makes them want to return again and again.
Reinstatement of the Georgian staircase to the east of the plan, the stair has been extended to the lower ground floor and the upper section fully repaired with all lath and plaster being replaced and the stair structurally stabilised, defining the horizontal circulation and restoring it to its former glory.
The Georgian grand entrance and stair has undergone paint analysis of all surfaces to allow the original Georgian colour scheme to be reinstated making it a truly grand staircase and fit for the primary entrance of the building. The colours discovered were then reinterpreted for the new 21st Century spaces including the adjoining introduction room and café.
The second floor has been re-organised with the original heritage Georgian rooms to the front of the plan, which used to be the home of Michael Faraday and his wife. These grand new spaces now house the RI offices in a stately setting.
All first floor heritage rooms, including the Faraday Theatre, Ante Room and two public libraries have been refurbished using traditional plasters and like for like timbers used to repair all flooring, Georgian heritage colour schemes have been used throughout. Creating a stunning series of rooms that are appropriate for spreading the scientific message and history of the RI to the public.
In total the redevelopment has led to a 40% increase in accessible public space and has fully reinstated all heritage rooms, making these fully accessible to the community
The building now has a strong clear strategy for reconfiguring and ordering spaces, old and new, with clear horizontal and vertical circulation routes. This clarity of spatial ordering has helped to make the building and its uses fully accessible and relevant to the 21st Century. Public access to built and cultural heritage has been greatly improved. There is a balance of conservation and restoration, refurbishment for new use and new build. Heritage has been reinterpreted, developed, contrasted and challenged to define the nature of each space and new built forms.
The existing heritage building fabric was reused positively for its good insulation properties and is utilised to minimise new energy requirements. New materials used such as timber are all viably sustainable. Internal environments are balanced through a broad temperature range allowing installation of minimal new heating and cooling systems that are only engaged at the extreme cold or hot times as needed.
Throughout the RI daylight is maximised with new glazed atria to reduce artificial lighting and associated energy use and provide variety of experience to further enhance the sense of well being for the user. The atrium is also used to vent and cool the building with fresh air being drawn down into the building using existing vents and disused chimney stacks.
Through the combination of creative building reuse and adaptable 21st century environmental technologies the area of building accessible to the public is greatly increased and uses and experiences for the users are more varied and engaging. Considered sustainable design will ensure the public have access to and the use of the Royal Institution for a long time to come.