At the centre of the House of Architecture programme are our plans to transform our London building, bring together our world-class collections, and develop a virtual programme that will expand our digital reach and accessibility, on a global scale.
Open to all, the new 66 Portland Place will be a vibrant hub for anyone seeking to understand and engage with the subject of architecture. Making our unique body of architectural knowledge available to all, wherever they are in the world, we will establish the RIBA as a preeminent international research centre.
The House of Architecture programme will be central to reinforcing RIBA’s identity as an outward-looking learned society and cultural institution. A place where important ideas – such as the design of our low carbon future - are developed and shared.
66 Portland Place
We are preparing to transform our headquarters at 66 Portland Place, London into an inspiring, inclusive and sustainable centre for sharing knowledge and understanding of architecture.
Our magnificent building was built in 1934 when we had less than 8000 members – now we have more than 50,000. In 1970, it was awarded Grade II*listed status. In recent years, we have upgraded parts of the building, creating a new Clore Learning Centre in 2019 and an Architecture Gallery with the museum conditions needed to display items from our collections, in 2014. The building currently houses our library, parts of our collections, a bookshop, café and some desk spaces for our staff team.
It also provides a range of event spaces for private hire. 66 Portland Place is a beautiful building, but it is currently underperforming in sustainability and accessibility terms. Heat pours from our single-glazed metal-framed windows and many of our 27 different levels can only be reached by stairs. The building’s systems - from plumbing and electrics to the passenger lifts - are at the end of their life. A full modernisation process, to make the building fit for the future, is urgent and essential.
The reimagined and reinvented 66 Portland Place will become a vibrant hub for people of all ages to engage with the subject of the built environment and excellence in architecture. A destination for events and a re-energised programme of exhibitions, our unique venue spaces will also generate commercial revenue, enabling us to better support our members, our staff and our work.
As well as being a key part of RIBA’s heritage, 66 Portland Place is a valuable asset and its transformation is fundamental to the wider programme to fully deliver on RIBA’s charitable purpose. And, as ever, we are mindful of making the best use of our resources, on behalf of members, both now and in the future.
The plans for 66 Portland Place are bold, ambitious, and comprehensive, due to be completed over a number of stages. Having appointed a first-class project team – led by Benedetti Architects - and reviewed an initial feasibility study, we are now developing the next iteration of the brief and the first real concept design.
The programme for the initial phase - design, planning permissions, fundraising, construction and reoccupation - is anticipated to take approximately five years. We will inevitably have to move out of 66 Portland Place for some of this time, ensuring that we continue to deliver our key activities.
We are at an early stage of the project and the building will remain fully open for business, to visitors and for venue bookings, for at least the next two years.
We care for the most significant architecture collection in the world. With over four million objects and counting, our collections are rich and global in scope, spanning thousands of architects and hundreds of years.
Our collections represent a unique body of architectural knowledge, of huge practical value to people all over the world - everyone from architects and students, to researchers, businesses, and policymakers. But currently, much of this material is inaccessible and underused, dispersed across five UK locations, that we have outgrown.
We have ambitious plans to unify and digitise our collections, allowing them to be accessed and appreciated as widely and easily as possible, both physically and online. Stored in a new facility, we will be able to better conserve and digitise our collections, and expand them through new acquisitions.
This work, and the delivery of a new virtual platform, will be supported by investment in a comprehensive upgrade of our digital technology and systems.
Speaking about the House of Architecture programme, Jack Pringle, Chair of the RIBA Board:
“In the 1930s, our predecessors took a calculated leap to create a flagship building – putting our profession and institute ‘on the map’. Almost one hundred years on, the world has changed, as have our ambitions. This is an incredibly exciting time for RIBA and an opportunity for us to deliver against our charitable purpose: to create opportunities – online and virtually – to promote and celebrate excellence in architecture and to share our collections with audiences far and wide. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and we can’t wait to open RIBA up to the world! We look forward to sharing more updates as this project progresses.”