The Royal College of Art (RCA)

The Royal College of Art (RCA)

Herzog and de Meuron
Battersea, United Kingdom | View Map
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© Herzog & de Meuron

Royal College of Art announces ambitious future plans

Herzog and de Meuron as Architects

The Royal College of Art (RCA), the internationally renowned art and design university,today launched GenerationRCA, an ambitious five-year campaign programme representing the most significant development in its history since the College was founded in 1837.

GenerationRCA will propel the RCA’s radical new academic vision by focusing on three key pillars: ‘Places, Projects and People.’

GenerationRCA: Places 

This programme will see the RCA transform its campuses and the ways in which the university teaches, researches and creates. On a site immediately opposite its existing Battersea campus, the RCA will open a new state-of-the-art building, designed by internationally acclaimed architects Herzog & de Meuron. A landmark for London and British higher education, the Herzog & de Meuron development sets a new blueprint for creative education.

After 2021, the RCA will turn its focus to its historic site in Kensington, and undertake the revitalisation of its Grade II-listed Darwin Building which opened in 1961, designed by Sir Hugh Casson, H.T. Cadbury-Brown and Robert Goodden. The RCA intends to rediscover the radical nature of this exceptional building and return to the startlingly bold vision of its founders.

GenerationRCA: Projects

The RCA’s academic vision is to transform the accepted paradigm of an art and design university, by injecting key scientific disciplines into the mix of creative disciplines traditionally on offer. The College will continue along its recent path of introducing exciting and provocative new programmes such as Environmental Architecture and Digital Direction; with future programmes centred on nano and soft robotics, computer science and machine learning, materials science and the circular economy.

GenerationRCA: People 

At present, the RCA welcomes the world’s most creative and talented individuals from some 76 different nationalities. GenerationRCA will establish a significant scholarship endowment fund, which will be built up over generations to come, in order to ensure that the most gifted students, irrespective of their financial circumstances, are able to study at the RCA. New faculty positions will be established in distinct new fields of academic endeavour. This includes the Genesis Professor of Innovation, which the RCA will appoint in 2019, thanks to the generosity of the Genesis Foundation and John Studzinski CBE.

Sir Jony Ive, Chancellor, RCA, said: “I believe that the Royal College of Art is a truly unique community; a vital, creative environment where the nature of ideas are explored and nurtured; where the cross-pollination and collaboration of different disciplines is encouraged, uniting diverse groups in pursuit of discovery, and feeding and supporting the momentum which encourages an acceptance of the challenges associated with doing hard things, encouraging the curiosity, openness and care that are at the heart of innovation.

“I remain completely in awe and completely enchanted by the creative process, so I'm particularly proud to have the chance to represent and help guide this extraordinary institution as Chancellor, as we enter one of the most exciting times in its history.”

Dr Paul Thompson, Vice-Chancellor, RCA said: “The launch of GenerationRCA marks a real watershed in the Royal College of Art’s 182-year history. Founded in response to the first Industrial Revolution, today the RCA stands as the vanguard of a new era in art and design, which promises breakthroughs in robotics, autonomous vehicles, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence.” 

Realising the Vision

In 2016, the RCA presented an ambitious business case to Government, requesting exceptional one-off funding support in order to realise its new strategic vision. Following discussions with Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and HM Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that they would contribute £54m to underpin the RCA’s new strategy, in particular, its goal to double the number of start-ups exiting InnovationRCA, its business and commercialisation incubator.

The RCA, whose Pro-Chancellor is Baroness Gail Rebuck, today celebrates the news that it has reached some 70% of its philanthropic goal for the Battersea campus, thanks to a £15 million gift from The Sigrid Rausing Trust. This landmark donation is the single, largest philanthropic gift in the history of the RCA. This will underpin the College’s transformation and be recognised through the naming of the Rausing Research and Innovation building at Battersea. 

When announcing the gift, Dr Sigrid Rausing commented: “The Royal College of Art has an impressive record of teaching, innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration, with ambitious plans for the future. I am delighted to make this gift, which will help the College build the infrastructure it needs to enable a new generation of students to develop creative ideas and concepts within the public sector.”

The new Battersea development

The new Battersea flagship building, situated alongside the existing campus, is conceived as two conjoined buildings that will provide some 16,000 sqm of studios, workshops, labs and research centres. At its heart lies a dramatic double-height hangar space – an agora where large-scale works can be assembled and displayed, and students can gather for talks or performances. 

The new development will ensure that the RCA continues to reach out towards its local community, with the creation of a new café and art materials shop. Public walkways intersect the site, referencing the original Victorian street grid of this quarter of London. The RCA’s close neighbours include the headquarters of fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and architects Foster & Partners. Construction of the building is underway, and the RCA looks forward to opening the doors to students in autumn 2021.

To mark the launch of GenerationRCA, the College unveiled a new film created in collaboration with RCA alumnus, Sir Ridley Scott, and supported by Ridley Scott Associates (RSA). The film celebrates every past, present and future generation of RCA students and staff. Creative giants including Tracey Emin, David Hockney, Thomas Heatherwick and Asif Kapadia welcomed RSA into their studios to offer a rare glimpse into their creative worlds. 

The RCA’s celebrated alumni include: Henry Moore, Dame Barbara Hepworth, David Hockney, Bridget Riley, Chris Ofili, Tracey Emin, Sir James Dyson, Sir Ridley Scott, Christopher Bailey, Sir David Adjaye, Thomas Heatherwick, Monster Chetwynd and Asif Kapadia.

About the RCA

The RCA, the internationally renowned art and design university, provides students with unrivalled opportunities to deliver art and design projects that transform the world. A small, specialist and research-intensive postgraduate university based in the heart of London, the RCA is a high-performing institution, a radical traditionalist in a fast-paced world.

The RCA's approach is founded on the premise that art, design, creative thinking, science, engineering and technology must all collaborate to solve today's global challenges.

In 2018, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales became Royal Visitor of the College. The Prince of Wales succeeded His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, who was Royal Visitor for 50 years.

The RCA employs a cadre of around 1,000 professionals from around the world – spanning professors, researchers, art and design practitioners, advisers and visiting lecturers – to teach and develop students in around 30 academic programmes.

RCA students are exposed to new knowledge in a way that encourages them to experiment. Working across scientific and technical canvases and beyond set boundaries, RCA students seek to solve real-world problems.

RCA opened the Burberry Material Futures Research Group in 2018 to invent sustainable materials, transform consumer experience and advance manufacturing; and the Intelligent Mobility Design Centre, supported by Hyundai Kia, to lead the research agenda at the intersection of people, mobility and technology. 

The RCA runs joint programmes with Imperial College London and the Victoria & Albert Museum.


Housed in the Clore Innovation Centre, InnovationRCA, the university's centre for enterprise, entrepreneurship, incubation and business support, has helped over 50 RCA business ideas become a realitythat has led to the creation of over 600 UK jobs.                  

The Higher Education Funding Council for England 2015 report ‘Research to Assess the Nature and Annual Value of Student Start-ups’, ranked the RCA as having the highest number of student spin-outs with university ownership in recent years in the UK. The RCA had 14, compared to four at Oxford University, Imperial College London and University College London and two at Cambridge University.


The new developments will enhance the RCA’s reputation for working across disciplines, integrating science, technology, engineering and mathematics into the curriculum to lead the way as a fully embracing, STEAM-focused university. The STEAM agenda places critical value on the catalysing power of the creative arts (A) alongside science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 

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