RNIB's London HQ

Grimaldi Building - Kings Cross, London 

Earlier this year, the RNIB’s London HQ emerged as the UK's first building to blend innovations for individuals with visual impairments. In collaboration with Guide Dogs and Buro Happold, Kay Elliott developed a multifaceted design housing essential RNIB services and amenities. These include the Low Vision Service assessment clinics, Products for Life store, a usability lab  demonstrating everyday adaptations, a heritage display area, ‘Talking Books’ recording studios, RNIB Connect Radio broadcast studio, a multi-faith room, a tranquil space for those experiencing sensory overload or stress, and guide dog facilities.

This structure is dedicated to fostering a genuinely inclusive environment for all its users, featuring several key elements that integrates the BSI PAS 6493 ‘Design for the Mind – Neurodiversity and the Built Environment’ guidelines, ensuring broad accessibility and inclusion.

The architect’s role?

The RNIB’s headline for our appointment was: ‘We want to create a beacon of accessibility’. We began by engaging with stakeholders, taking on board lived experiences, and looking at how people would like things improved when downsizing and moving to the Grimaldi Building.

Built as an office in 1990s, it is a replica of a church that originally stood on the site. It has five floors and existing lift and staircases front and back. We already knew from the accessibility audit which elements didn’t work, and being tired, the building needed remodelling. Our role in designing for accessibility started at the front gate and continued throughout the interior levels, to create the diverse environments, from a designated quiet floor and collaborative spaces to a serenity room.

It is by holding fast to ‘no compromise’ on the accessibility brief, that got the RNIB this result.

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