Less than six months after the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) attended a competition for a “thorough renovation” of its former headquarters at 66 Portland Place in central London, a company was selected to take over the approximately million project: Benedetti Architects.
Led by Canadian-born and educated Renato Benedetti, the six-year-old company was one of seven teams-comprising 11 RIBA-approved companies in total-shortlisted for the major renovation, joined by David Kohn Architects, Donald Insall Associates, Freehaus and IDK; Feix&Merlin with Haptic Architects and Heritage Architecture; Hall McKnight, Hugh Broughton Architects and Roz Barr Architects. The list of finalists for the competition was first revealed by RIBA at the beginning of March.
“We were very impressed by the quality and attention paid to each shortlisted proposal, but in the end, Benedetti architects’ vision for our project ensured their victory,” said Simon Allford, President of RIBA. “They also enthusiastically embraced our idea of collaborating with other practices after.”
With the announcement that Benedetti will lead the transformation of Grade II-listed 66 Portland Place into a “dynamic, accessible and sustainable building,” the company will now begin a full feasibility study with RIBA and bring, as Allford said, a handful of small businesses to join the larger project team. According to a RIBA press release, “design and financing options will be considered by the RIBA Board of Directors for decision in due course,” and construction is expected to begin in early 2024.
Before setting up his London firm of the same name in 2016, Benedetti co-founded McDowell + Benedetti (founded in 1996) and worked for seven years as a partner at David Chipperfield Architects. Award-winning architects Benedetti have led several renowned restoration projects in the British capital and beyond, including the BAFTA headquarters at 195 Piccadilly, Oliver’s Wharf Penthouse and Portsmouth Guildhall. The company was also nominated along with Adjaye Associates and PUP Architects for the Barbican renovation project (as announced at the end of April, Allies and Morrison and Asif Khan Studio were finally selected) and the Camden Highline.
According to the full competition letter, the redesign of 66 Portland Place, which has undergone many improvements and improvements over its long history, calls for the creation of “modern and flexible workspaces” to accommodate RIBA staff, as well as four new gallery spaces in the building: a public gallery, Members’ Gallery, Collections Gallery and Public Affairs Gallery. In addition, RIBA has established the main requirements for the planned revision:
- “Redefine the space inside the building for different functions.
- Ensure full accessibility throughout the building.
- Join RIBA’s Climate Challenge 2030 to achieve sustainable results and achieve net zero while modernizing building infrastructure.
- Sensitive restoration and conservation of the Grade II listed building.”
The Art Deco 66 Portland Place, located in the Marylebone area of the West End, was designed by George Grey Wornum, who won a competition in 1929 to find designs for a new headquarters for the then 95-year-old RIBA, which had been located at 8 Conduit Street since 1859.
Allford, who sat on the jury of the eight-person competition alongside, among others, Sarah Williams, RIBA’s architectural consultant, Simone de Gale, RIBA’s board member and honorary treasurer, and Alan Vallance, RIBA’s chief executive, added:
A report will be released as more design plans for the 66 Portland Place renewal are revealed.