The refurbishment, overseen by Matthew Lloyd architects, will create new and improved technological facilities for visitors, including the ability to relay events from and to the Great Room, creating real-time links with Fellows and public audiences in the UK and internationally. This will enable more visitors to benefit from the RSA's free annual events programme, which, with more than 150 events a year, is one of the most exciting in the country.
Work has begun on the long-awaited refurbishment of the RSA House, which will embody the RSA's 21st century enlightenment mission for both Fellows and visitors. The aim is to create a technologically advanced space that is fit for the 21st century, but that remains strongly linked with the RSA's 18th century heritage.
Flexibility is the principle behind all the refurbishment work. In its current state, the Great Room only fulfils the function of an auditorium, but in future, it will become a multipurpose space that can be used for seminars, debates, exhibitions, dinners, weddings and other events. The new room will have a flat floor - as was the case in the 18th century - and movable seating that can be arranged to suit different functions.
The ground-floor area will be opened out, making it more accessible for visitors of all abilities. It will incorporate new informal meeting areas and screen-based information about the RSA's latest initiatives. A new lighting feature, which will be created by the winner of a forthcoming design competition, will hang above the main staircase.
Matthew Lloyd Architects' plan is to recreate the original Adam brothers' architecture in a contemporary way, producing fresh, clean, beautiful spaces while restoring the building's Georgian purity and splendour. Their aim is to be as sympathetic as possible, without being dogmatically historical, and to create an architecture for the RSA that will last for a hundred years or more.
Commenting on the refurbishment RSA Chief Executive Matthew Taylor said:
"We want to create an architecture for the RSA which really speaks to our mission of 21st century enlightenment and that will last for a hundred years."