While I’m on the subject of the New RA, I should document the role of the HLF in making it possible.
I discovered last night (which I had not known) that the origins of the project go back to 1992, when Sir Piers Rodgers, my predecessor, but three – or four, depending on who you count – first learned that the British Museum was planning to vacate the building and went to see Virginia Bottomley, the then Secretary of State, to seek her support for the RA to secure it (they had apparently previously tried to acquire it in 1900 when the University of London left). It was the same era as the establishment of the lottery by John Major as a way of escaping Treasury control on major capital projects.
During the 1990s, there were endless discussions as to its appropriate use, including a common one that it should be a centre for the display and discussion of architecture, vigorously promoted by Philip Dowson, the then PRA.
The HLF turned the first project down in 2001. The RA asked for too much money and it was after the HLF had turned its funding – for good reason – away from London. But they did give the current project £12.7M in 2013; and one of the pleasures of last night was seeing Jenny Abramsky, the then chairman, who supported the project after lying on a bed in our then louche café, Wesley Kerr, the then chair of the London committee, Christopher Woodward, who supported the project when it went to the main Board against those who felt that the RA was a private institution, Jane Stancliffe, the original project officer, and Patricia Lankester, who has been a project monitor since the beginning, as well as being able to walk Peter Luff, the current chairman, through the building.
I mention all this because fewer people are buying lottery tickets; the HLF is no longer able to give big lottery grants; the Arts Council has absorbed its lottery funding into its routine grant-giving. So, Burlington Gardens may be one of the last grand monuments to a long and fertile period of lottery funding:-