RIBA unveils shortlist of firms vying to lead revamp of its London headquarters

Portland Place Facelift

RIBA unveils shortlist of firms vying to lead revamp of its London headquarters

66 Portland Place, headquarters of the Royal Institute of British Architects since 1934. (cmglee/ Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY SA 3.0)

The Royal Institute of Architects (RIBA) has shared the shortlist of the seven teams—11 practices, total—that have advanced through the Expressions of Interest (EOI) process and are now in the running to oversee a roughly $27 million (£20 million) “comprehensive refurbishment” of its longtime headquarters at 66 Portland Place in central London.

As previously reported in January when the closely watched competition was first announced, the winning team will “lead the project to deliver a fully accessible building that reflects the RIBA’s commitment to climate action whilst providing flexible facilities for RIBA Members, staff, and visitors.” Per RIBA, the winning team will “help to develop design options, costs, and feasibility for the full refurbishment of the building” and is expected to manage the major overhaul, coordinate with design team members, and “determine next steps of the strategic master plan.”

The shortlisted teams are:

All the above firms, including Northern Ireland’s Hall McKnight, either maintain offices in London or are fully based there. All are RIBA-chartered practices, as required by the competition rules.

As RIBA President Simon Allford, who was a member of an eight-person competition jury panel, remarked in a statement:

“Our vision for RIBA’s House of Architecture is to create opportunities for virtual and physical interaction and inspiration—and 66 Portland Place is a key destination in this programme. The building is both impressive and an important asset, but it requires essential modernisation to ensure it is fully accessible, fit for the future and an exemplar of sustainable retrofit. The terms of our lease make the building our long-term home, and it is vital that we get it into the best shape for all members, visitors and clients, for years to come.

The panel and I were delighted with the quality and passion evidenced in the first stage of the selection process—congratulations to all shortlisted teams. We look forward to seeing more detailed proposals and – in due course – giving the building a new lease of life.”

Per the full competition brief, the significant refresh of 66 Portland Place, which has been subject to numerous upgrades and enhancements over its long history, calls for the creation of “modern and flexible workspaces” to accommodate RIBA staff along with four new gallery spaces located within the building: a Public Gallery, Member’s Gallery, Collections Gallery, and Public Affairs Gallery. Additionally, RIBA has identified key requirements of the planned overhaul:

  • “Redefine space within the building for various functions.
  • Ensure full accessibility throughout the building.
  • Align with RIBA’s 2030 Climate Challenge to achieve sustainable outcomes and meet Net Zero whilst upgrading the building infrastructure.
  • Sensitive restoration and conservation of the Grade II building.

Located in the West End’s Marylebone district, the art deco 66 Portland Place was designed by George Grey Wornum, who won a 1929 competition seeking designs for a new headquarters for the then-95-year-old RIBA, which had previously been located at 8 Conduit Street since 1859.

As previously reported by AN last October, RIBA is said to be mulling the reduction of its real estate portfolio after facing a considerable deficit in 2020. While no official offloading plans have been announced so far, the neighboring 76 Portland Place is reportedly on the chopping block. That seven-story, 1950s-era building houses RIBA offices and a member cafe.

The competition now enters its second phase, and an overall winner of the so-called House of Architecture at RIBA project will be announced in April. Work, as noted by RIBA in its announcement of the shortlist, “is unlikely to take place” until late 2023.