Looking after Auntie
THE REBIRTH OF THE BBC'S BROADCASTING HOUSE
IN 1985, BROADCASTING HOUSE WAS DESCRIBED IN AN EXHIBITION AT THE ROYAL ACADEMY AS HOPELESSLY OBSOLETE. THE £1.4 BN REDEVELOPMENT OF THE GRADE 2* LISTED BUILDING HAS GIVEN THE ICONIC HOME OF THE BBC A NEW LEASE OF LIFE, HALVED CARBON EMISSIONS, REDUCED ESTATE COSTS BY £736M AND HELPED ENSURE ITS FUTURE.
Broadcasting House (BH) has always been a place of stark contrasts: a place where tradition is balanced with innovation, where oak-panelled rooms sit alongside new studios, and where the BBC as both institution and service has to balance its history with its present and future needs.
As the post-war world of radio and television expanded, the corporation gradually moved more and more of its operation out of the building. After years of debate about the future role of Broadcasting House, it was decided to rationalise the London property portfolio and bring together News, Word Service, and Audio & Music into one fully digital broadcasting centre. The redevelopment also aimed to give the BBC greater civic presence and expose the institution at work for the first time in its historic home.
The redevelopment has probably been of the UK’s largest and most complex conservation projects. Over a twelve year period, BH has been effectively repaired and reconstructed from the inside out and is today one of the most technically advanced and largest live news broadcast centres in the world. In many ways, it is more like a small town than a building and is now home to over five thousand members of staff – a place where over 28 languages are spoken and broadcasting to over 250 million people each week.
The project created 80,000 sq.m (861,113 sq.ft) of new space and vastly improved the environmental credentials of the original grade two * listed headquarters which (uniquely for a broadcasting building) means BH now has an excellent BREEAM energy rating- putting it into the top 10% of all new buildings.
The redevelopment achieved a 45% reduction in carbon emissions and the experience gained on the project now informs industry-wide guidance on low energy studio design. The project has helped the BBC to streamline its News services and is expected to deliver savings of £736 million over 20 years.
The radio studios at the heart of the building suffered from noise caused by the nearby underground tube line shaking the steel frame and interrupting broadcasts. To solve the problem, the floors within the studio tower at the centre of the building have been replaced to improve their acoustic performance and new secondary glazing now stops traffic noise on Portland Place from entering from outside. The roof was removed, four new floors added, and an extension constructed to the east, behind John Nash’s All Souls Church. Inside, the dark and confusing corridors have been opened up and replaced with light and airy open plan production spaces. A completely new services infrastructure was threaded into the confined spaces and low ceilings within the building. “Regent Street Disease” (rusting steelwork which had caused the Portland stone on the exterior to crack) was cured, Eric Gill’s external sculptures carefully cleaned and historic internal timber panelling and mosaics restored.
Phase two of the project was completed in 2013. Previous additions to the north of the original building were removed, a major new eight-floor extension with three levels of basement constructed and a new public space created.
Mark Hines was the project director responsible for the remodelling of Broadcasting House from inception through to completion and produced the BH Heritage Statement which for the first time, formally defined the building’s historic, artistic and cultural significance. Crucially, this document allowed the radical changes to the listed building as it demonstrated to English Heritage and the planners the proposed alterations would not significantly harm the building.
Mark was the author of “The Story of Broadcasting House: Home of the BBC” and we have continued to carry out projects at Broadcasting House, including the remodelling of the Radio Theatre, the redesign of the reception area and the refurbishment of panelled offices within the original listed building. We have also been commissioned to write a Conservation Management Plan which provides clear guidelines for the future conservation of Broadcasting House.
CLIENT: BBC/BOVIS LEND LEASE