Royal College of Art Battersea Campus

London, United Kingdom

Completed 2016

Royal College of Art

Cultural, Educational

161,500 sf on 40,900-sf site

Targeting A-rated EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) and BREEAM Excellent rating


Catalyzing new relationships between art, design, science, and technology, Studio Gang’s proposal for the Royal College of Art’s Battersea South campus weaves indoor and outdoor spaces to create a flexible yet powerful hub for interdisciplinary innovation and community on its urban site.

The new campus’s entire ground plane—both inside and out—is devoted to making and social mixing. Existing streets and alleys become green quadrangles and maker yards where students and faculty can create, converse, and relax. A central “materials exchange” serves as the heart of the campus, pulling in people from all departments to trade materials and ideas on a daily basis, encouraging cross-field friendships and collaboration.

The ground plane knits new and existing buildings and the surrounding neighborhood into a campus tapestry—a field of social interaction out of which two distinct buildings arise: an adaptable three-dimensional lattice for teaching and experimentation, with modular timber bays that flexibly accommodate different disciplines, and a potent interface with industry, filled with state-of-the-art technical spaces for the RCA’s moving image department and its multidisciplinary research and development entities. All four sides of both buildings perform as fronts—engaging the cityscape at ground level with transparency and at levels above with active facades that invite use and customization.

The larger of the two buildings features teaching and studio spaces organized in modular timber bays that flexibly accommodate different disciplines and allow the entire building to adapt over time as new uses, needs, and technologies emerge. 

The stacked assemblage of beams and columns provides for plug-and-play mechanical, electrical, and lighting systems, including a customizable ventilation system for a healthy art-making environment. In select locations, the modular grid opens to reveal school-wide gathering spaces such as a “crit pit” and cafe.

Axonometric Diagram

The perimeter of the larger building is activated with breakout spaces, outdoor terraces, and sky-lit “window boxes” that extend activity to the edges and create an articulated, human-scaled facade. The building’s roof plane harvests the sun’s energy, which, in combination with the facade’s self-shading geometry, significantly contributes to its environmental performance.

The smaller building provides state-of-the-art technical spaces for the RCA’s moving image department and its multidisciplinary research and development entities. Its Vierendeel steel structure maximizes flexibility, encouraging experimentation. Slick horizontal bands of metal and glass create a dynamic counterpoint to the larger building’s inhabitable fringe. Experimental rooftop greenhouses and a treetop terrace contribute to the building’s high environmental performance.

Consultant Team

Axis, executive architect