Broadcasting House, London

  • Portland Place, London, W1A 1AA
  • Designed by: George Val Myer and Watson Hart
  • Built: 1930 - 1932
  • Tags: Art Deco, Commercial

Located on Portland Place, north of Regent Street in Central London, stands the imposing structure of Broadcasting House, home of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) since the early 1930s. Today the building serves as the broadcaster's headquarters for news gathering, radio, television and online services. The building's original purpose was home to Britain's fledgling radio service, the country's first purpose-built broadcasting facility including offices and radio studios.

Broadcasting House was designed by architects George Val Myer and Watson Hart, using a steel frame clad in traditional Portland stone. The building rises for nine storeys, with a three storey basement, and extends substantially north for some thirty-five bays along Portland Place. The building terminates to the south with a narrow, rounded main facade on Langham Place, adjacent to All Souls Church, by eminent English architect John Nash.

The western side of the building along Portland Place, is higher that that to the east, along Langham Place, where the height of the building diminishes from nine storeys to six, so that it didn't block the light for properties on neighbouring Langham Street. The sloping roof used to bridge the change in height was obscured by the clock tower, a practical and effective design solution.

The main facade rises for six storeys and is topped with an ornamental clock tower, with an oval shaped clock and, originally, two latticework masts for long wave and short wave radio; the mast visible today is a replica. Above the main entrance doors, atop a stone lintel, stands a sculpture by English designer Eric Gill of "Prospero and Ariel", characters from Shakespeare's "The Tempest". At the time, the naked figure of Ariel, a young boy, caused some disquiet amongst genteel society. Along wesstern Portland Place and eastern Langham Street elevations further sculptures by Eric Gill adorn the facades, "Ariel hearing celestial music", "Ariel between Wisdom and Gaiety" and "Ariel piping to the children".

The Portland Place facade features large windows on the ground floor and a third floor balcony for the fifteen central bays. The ninth attic storey, stepped back from the western facade of the building has seven round 'porthole' style windows. The attic feature likened to the raised superstructure of a ship, and combined with its narrow facade, deep structure behind, and aerial mast, it has led the building to be likened to an ocean liner.

Inside the main foyer, on the ground floor is a further sculpture by Gill, a statue of "The Sower". The studios were designed by a number of different designers, Raymond McGrath, Serge Chermayeff (jointly responsible for the De La Warr Pavilion), Wells Coates (responsible for Embassy Court in Brighton), Dorothy Warren Trotter and Edward Mauffe. The building's concert hall was designed by the building's chief designer, George Val Myer.

Construction of Broadcasting House began in 1928 and after four years of construction the building was officially opened on 14 May 1932. The building played a vital role in the Second World War; the television service was shutdown during the war and the British public tuned in to BBC radio for news of the conflict. The building suffered damage during two bombing attacks by the German Luftwaffe, but was able to continue broadcasting to the nation.

Beginning in 2003, the first of two phases saw a massive redevelopment of Broadcasting House, to become the broadcaster's central hub for its core services. The second phase was officially opened in June 2013 by Her Majesty The Queen marking the end of the building's transformation. A new wing stands adjacent to the original 1930s building, while the foyer and other original features have been conserved and restored.

The building was awarded Grade II*-listed status on 16 January 1981.

This is an updated and revised building profile first published on 1 March 2009.

References

Posted by Richard Coltman on Saturday, May 14, 2016

A celebration of Modernist architecture in Britain