BAFTA (The British Academy of Film and Television Arts) headquarters at 195 Piccadilly in London is all set to see a major refurbishment and expansion, starting this month. London-based Benedetti Architects is spearheading the project for the world’s leading independent arts charity that brings the best of films, games and television to public attention and supports the growth of creative talent in the UK and other countries.
We all know their awards, but they do so much more and this building is integral to their broad charitable remit and singular international identity. – Renato Benedetti, Director, Benedetti Architects
An architectural gem, the building in London’s St. James’s street has been much loved by BAFTA members and the general public. Built in 1883 by English architect E. R. Robson, the three-storey structure was originally used to hold multi-purpose events for the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours before the charity occupied it in 1974. It has since been home to BAFTA.
The 2050 sqm. structure stands apart for its striking Victorian architecture, where portrait busts, splendid baroque doorways and projecting pilasters adorn its façade, and a combination of well-proportioned interiors give space for young talent to flourish. The various spaces include a 227-seater Princess Anne Theatre, rooms for the BAFTA members, administration, meeting rooms, as well as different areas for holding charitable programmes.
While the building’s grandeur has been immense, its infrastructure, age and size limit the organisation’s future ambitions to which BAFTA commissioned Benedetti Architects for comprehensive improvement and expansion of the Grade II listed headquarters.
The architects’ proposal pilots a unifying interior design that enhances the building’s cultural and historic assets while catering to new requirements. The scheme involves doubling the built capacity by significantly increasing the usable area and reconfiguring the entire infrastructure to improve energy performance and user comfort.
A striking feature in the new scheme emerges in the form of an additional top floor that overlooks views of the St. James’s Churchyard. The intervention involves a three-metre extension of the existing space that was occupied with Victorian roof lights and its decorative plasterwork. This expansion brings into account a much-needed revival of the structural elements, which were otherwise shut for storage for more than 40 years.
Other aspects of the refurbishment include a larger entrance, a second cinema theatre, a banquet hall, a restaurant and a club, members’ bar, a new and expanded kitchen, administrative spaces and two terraces.
The new architectural vision, as architect Renato Benedetti explains, “Expands, animates and enhances everything BAFTA does, while staying true to the building’s original character.” With an inventive approach, the proposal experiments with existing space-volume matrix to adapt to new programmes that help facilitate the charity’s long-term cultural and financial stability.
“We are excited by the ideas and scope of the design by Benedetti Architects to fundamentally enhance every aspect of what we do while being sensitive to the character of the building we are so fond of,” said Kevin Prince, the Chief Operating Officer at BAFTA.
The expansion of 195 Piccadilly is a fundraising initiative spearheading the ‘Illuminating BAFTA Campaign’ that involves raising a sum of £25m. Till the time the renovation is on, BAFTA will have its temporary home next door to continue catering to members and the general public. The project is scheduled to be completed in the third quarter of 2021.