On Thursday evening, May 7th, chapter members and guests toured a building familiar with many of our members. The Royal Society of Art's building on John Adams Street in London was host to many AIA UK events in the 1990s.
Founded in 1754, the RSA was the first of many learned societies to emerge from the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century and counted luminaries like Benjamin Franklin as members. Realizing they needed a purpose built headquarters, the RSA commissioned the top "starchitect" of the day, John Adams to design their new building in 1774. Several adjacent houses and a tavern were added to the property over the ensuing years and by the current century, the facility was in need of work. Matthew Lloyd Architects was appointed in 2010 to repair, modernize and create a unified design for the facility while enhancing the listed structures.
Alex Sherratt, partner at Matthew Lloyd, and Pete Bass, Insight Manager at the RSA, showed off their "new" facility on a fascinating tour of the building. A huge amount of work was undertaken and the results are stunning! A key element of the work was the conversion of the old auditorium into a more useful multi-purpose space, referred to as the Great Room. Complete with its original paintings by James Barry and sympathetic upgrades with modern lighting and IT services, the Great Room has been restored to its original configuration as envisioned by Adams with dramatic results. Through the strategic use of colour and common floor materials, Matthew Lloyd visually unified the disparate spaces on the ground floor, including the Benjamin Franklin room.
Clearly this wonderful renovation was a labour of love for the RSA and Matthew Lloyd Architects and this is reflected in the results!
A special thanks go to Alex and Pete for taking the time to show us around their unique and very special building!