Beard begins work on restoring Bristol’s landmark RWA building

Royal West of England Academy Bristol

Construction firm Beard is set to start restoration work on one of the city’s finest public buildings, transforming the experience and access for visitors.

The RWA (Royal West of England Academy), which is based on Queen’s Road in the City, has chosen Beard for its £3.8 million Light and Inspiration project, with work due to start imminently on the Grade II* listed site.

The RWA, which became Bristol’s first public art gallery when it was built in 1858, described the project as the most significant development to the building for more than a century.

The work includes urgent structural repairs to replace the vast roof lanterns in the galleries to create better lighting, and significant improvements in terms of access with the installation of a modern lift.

The project also represents another important contract in the heritage sector for family-run Beard, which has an impressive track record in the restoration of historic and landmark buildings in the region.

Mike Hedges, director at Beard Bristol, said: “For Beard, this is a project which provides a fantastic opportunity to help ensure the future of one of Bristol’s landmark buildings.

“As a construction partner we will add value by drawing on our great expertise of both logistically challenging projects and sensitive alteration and conservation of historic buildings.

“The replacement of the rooflights over the existing galleries for example, will improve the internal environment. While works to improve the entrance, lower windows and provision of a new lift will ensure an accessible, social, family-friendly space with improved natural light.

“This is a project which is very much in line with Beard’s central ethos that buildings are spaces for living, working, playing, and also inspiration.”

In addition to the work on the main building, there are also significant enhancements planned to facilities for visitors, including the forecourt for outdoor activities, enlarging the current café area and improvements to the retail and reception areas.

Alison Bevan, RWA Director, said: “This is a truly historic moment for us. Not since the façade was remodelled in 1913 has such a major project been undertaken. We’ve listened to our visitors and to the community we serve and are confident that the changes we’re making will enable people from across Bristol and beyond to benefit from extraordinary encounters with great art, including those with the most severe physical and mental health challenges.

“We are delighted to have appointed Beard Construction, who have themselves been operating for well over a century.  We’re really looking forward to working with this family company, and their extensive experience with important heritage buildings means that we know they’ll do a great job for us.”

The £3.8m project has been supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund as well as many other Trusts and Foundations and donors. To find out more go to: