Broadcasting House in London
Broadcasting House is the headquarters and registered office of the BBC in Portland Place and Langham Place, London.
The building includes the BBC Radio Theatre from where music and speech programmes are recorded in front of a studio audience. The radio stations BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, and BBC Radio 4 Extra are also broadcast from studios within the building.
Construction of Broadcasting House began in 1932, and the building opened to the BBC's offices and radio operations on 14 May 1934, eight years after the corporation's establishment. George Val Myer designed the building in collaboration with the BBC's civil engineer, M T Tudsbery. The original interiors were the work of Raymond McGrath, an Australian-Irish architect. He directed a team which included Serge Chermayeff and Wells Coates and designed the vaudeville studio, the associated green and dressing rooms, and the dance and chamber music studios in a flowing Art Deco style. It was later said of his efforts that "the designs for the BBC gave the first real fillip to industrial design in England".
The radio studios were arranged in a central location and constructed of Portland stone. The remainder of the building was steel framed and faced with Portland stone on the outside. These areas housed the offices, so that they could be both away from the noise of the radio operations, and have access to daylight. Objections by local residents also caused the structure to be changed. The east side of the building blocked out the light to local residents, and after complaints and seeking the right of ancient lights, the building was altered so that the east side of the building had a sloped roof. Underground structures, including hundred year old sewers, presented problems during construction. The building was built atop the Bakerloo line of the London Underground, while the Victoria line was in turn tunnelled beneath Broadcasting House in the 1960s, and has since presented problems for construction of the Egton Wing (see below). Noise from passing trains is audible within the radio theatre, but generally imperceptible in recordings.
The ground floor of the building was fitted with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the street, as it was believed that to finance such a project (costing £25,000,000 in today's money) they would need to let the ground floor as a retail unit. The rapid expansion of the BBC meant this never occurred.
The original building also showcases a number of works of art, most prominently the statues of Prospero and Ariel (from Shakespeare's The Tempest) by Eric Gill. Their choice was fitting since Prospero was a magician and scholar, and Ariel, a spirit of the air, in which radio waves travel. There was, reportedly, controversy over some features of the statues when first built and they were said to have been subsequently modified. They were reported to have been sculpted by Gill as God and Man, rather than simply Prospero and Ariel, and that there is a small carved picture of a beautiful girl on the back of the statue of Prospero. Additional carvings of Ariel can be found on the building's exterior in many bas-reliefs, some by Gill, others by Gilbert Bayes. The reception area also contains a statue of 'The sower' also by Gill.
The original structure is now a Grade II* listed building, and the BBC works with English Heritage on its maintenance.
Broadcasting House is currently undergoing a major renovation, aiming to restore the original building and combine a number of the BBC's operations in a newly built extension. Upon completion, the building will house the television and radio operations of BBC News which would relocate from Television Centre; the BBC World Service, relocating from Bush House, and BBC Radio, with the exception of BBC Radio 5 Live and its sister station 5 Live Sports Extra.
To make way for the renovation, BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music moved from Broadcasting House to newly built studios in the nearby Western House, with the intention of returning to Broadcasting House when the lease runs out in 2013.
The building work was completed in two phases, however it began with the demolition of two post-war extensions to the building.
The first phase consisted of the restoration of the original building, by now starting to show its age and needing structural repair, and the building of the new East, or Egton wing.
In the old building, the sloped east roof was taken off, and many of the rooms stripped back to their walls, although much of the Art Deco architecture was retained and preserved. Much of the work focused on the lower walls and ceilings which did not feature Art Deco architecture. The reception area was renovated to include a new desk, while retaining the message and statue as the attention piece of the room. Many rooms had ceilings removed, such as the south tower, and new reinforcement joists were added.
The new Egton wing was roughly the same shape as the main Broadcasting House building, featuring a modern design and window arrangement, but retaining some features such as the Portland stone used for the building. Towards the rear of the building, a large block was created in the side, mirroring that created in the main building, when the sloping roof was removed.
The design of the new extension, intended to equal in "architectural creativity" that already on site was carried out by MacCormac Jamieson Prichard. Construction was completed in 2006 and the newly refurbished Broadcasting House, and the newly completed Egton wing were opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 20 April 2006 as part of her 80th birthday celebrations.
A walkway above the newsroom would also allow the public to view the work of journalists, while connecting the foyer to the Radio Theatre and a new café for staff and the public. This, complemented by the outdoor plaza, which could act as an outdoor arena and theatre, is designed to engage the public with the television and radio making process.<ref name=Present/>
The construction work was completed by Bovis Lend Lease.
The original architects were sacked and replaced by the BBC for not agreeing to cost-related revisions as Sir Richard MacCormac was unwilling to sacrifice the quality of his design. While the rebuilding process was underway, many of the BBC Radio stations moved to other buildings near Portland Place. The extension is glass covered in the plaza area and curved to contrast both wings either side and to continue the glass found on both sides high up the building. On the Portland Place side, it continues the same use of Portland stone and glass seen in Egton wing. Construction work was completed in 2010, with control handed over to the BBC in 2011. The building is now being fitted out with the required technical equipment.
Atop the roof of the new Egton wing of Broadcasting House, mirroring the radio mast, is a cone shaped glass structure, reaching into the sky at the same height as the radio mast opposite. It was sculpted by Jaume Plensa and is a memorial to all of the BBC journalists killed in the line of duty. Called Breathing, it includes words from a poem by James Fenton and is illuminated day and night. At 10pm daily, in line with the BBC News at Ten, a column of light shines 900 metres into the sky. It was officially unveiled on the 16 June 2008 by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
- Broadcasting House
- BBC Press Office - Broadcasting House
- BBC Radio 4 - Archive Hour - The Home of Radio
- Broadcasting House - a potted history
- Broadcasting House in 1932