Transformation of the House of Humanities and Social Sciences
The British Academy today announced a major building program to reach, nurture and connect more leading thinkers and curious minds than ever before in its 120-year history.
The UK’s National Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences, founded in 1902, will undergo a major renovation of its building in London under the guidance of Wright & Wright, an architectural firm specializing in educational and cultural institutions. The scheme will focus on adding the latest hybrid event technology to enable interested audiences around the world to connect with the Academy’s work.
The £9 million development, supported by a £5 million lead grant from the Wolfson Foundation, will transform the Academy’s maze of corridors and rooms on the lower floors into three double-height spaces, technologically equipped for conferences, lectures, workshops, festivals. , and performances. This comes as the academic community and the events community are actively embracing online and hybrid events in the wake of the pandemic.
As specialists in reconciling historic buildings with the future, Wright & Wright Architects have developed an innovative plan that will provide contemporary spaces that complement the historic details in the rest of the Grade 1 listed building. In addition, with awards in the field of sustainability and environmental design, the firm has succeeded in securing a greener future for the British Academy. This includes air-source heat pumps to provide carbon-free heating, and the building will be the first Grade 1 listed building in Westminster to be given permission to install double glazing, allowing for better climate control, and all heating will be carbon-free.
Built for technology, the new event spaces will help the Academy broadcast its programs beyond London, across the UK, reaching an increasingly wide and diverse audience. The upgrade of the building will contribute to the Academy’s wider transformation strategy, which will be published later this year.
Professor Julia Black, President of the British Academy, said:
“For 120 years, the British Academy has brought together leading minds in the humanities and social sciences and championed the vital role these disciplines play in understanding our world and shaping a brighter future.
“For the next 12 decades, we will have a living home for the humanities and social sciences that is both physical, in central London, and virtual, with the ability to connect with academics, researchers, policymakers and the interested public. around the world. We are very grateful to the Wolfson Foundation for providing us with a £5 million grant and hope that this will inspire other funders to get involved in building this global platform.”
Paul Ramsbottom, chief executive of the Wolfson Foundation, said:
“We are very pleased to make this significant investment in the humanities and social sciences. This reflects the importance we place on these disciplines – both for their intrinsic value and for the variety of benefits they bring to society.
“The UK has long been a leader in research and science, and the British Academy continues to play a crucial role in supporting the most brilliant and interesting thinkers of our generation.
“It is a great pleasure to work in partnership with the Academy on this important project.”
Stephen Smith, partner at Wright & Wright, said:
“The design unlocks existing, underutilized spaces, transforming the historic building for the future and enabling the Academy to serve a growing audience. Our low-energy solution is based on an innovative approach that exemplifies our firm’s core principles of new-to-old green building, low-carbon and environmentally conscious design that will last well into the future.
“This transformation, responding toa post-Covid reality, will create flexible rooms for new ways of meeting and sharing in digital, hybrid and in-person formats. We are honored to help shape the evolution of the British Academy’s rich architectural and social history.”
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