New Broadcasting House 

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BROADCASTING HOUSE: A view of the construction in July 1930. From a watercolour painting by Karl Hagedorn

BROADCASTING HOUSE: A view of the construction in July 1930. From a watercolour painting by Karl Hagedorn

From the BBC Year-book for 1931.

In the autumn of 1928 the B.B.C., after long and deliberate investigation, completed arrangements for the building of a new headquarters in London, to take the place of their Savoy Hill premises that were becoming quite inadequate for the service that they had in prospect.

More numerous and better-proportioned studios, perfectly isolated from one another and immune as far as possible from the invasion of sounds from the City, with more perfect acoustical regulation and affording a proper degree of comfort to artists in their interpretive work, was the ideal that the B.B.C. had set for itself. All this finds expression in the planning of the building to be known as Broadcasting House, now in course of construction in Portland Place, W.1.

The building will make full and practical use of the whole of the space afforded by the site. There will be twelve floors, three of which will be below street level. There will be twenty studios, ranging in size from the small apartment necessary for “news,” to a studio large enough to accommodate a full orchestra and an audience of about 1000 people.

The shape of the site has enabled the B.B.C. to ensure the isolation of the studios from external noises by a simple but at the same time ingenious expedient. The studios will be separated from the streets that bound the site on all but the north side by a “buffer building.” They will, in fact, be contained within a vast brick tower that will occupy that portion of the site that is, in the ordinary building, devoted to a light well.

The building outside the central tower follows the usual modern lines of construction. It is steel framed and will, for the most part, house the administrative and executive departments, which thus will be close to, but sufficiently separated from, the studios and their suites to admit of efficient working.

To render the studios immune from sound transmitted through the steel of the outer structure, the central tower is. constructed in brick, without vertical steelwork. The lower walls are four feet thick, to carry the enormous load of the upper walls and their floors. For the most part the studios are separated vertically by rooms intended for use as Music Libraries, Stationery Stores, Publication Offices, and the like, which are approached from corridors outside the tower; hence the studios are unaffected by sound interference with one another.

BROADCASTING HOUSE: A photograph showing progress in October, 1930

BROADCASTING HOUSE: A photograph showing progress in October, 1930

On the lower ground floor will be the super studio, or Concert Hall, which is three storeys in height, and will be provided with all necessary waiting rooms, etc., for the convenience of artists; also a lounge for the comfort of the public.

On the sub-basement floor, and on the eighth floor, there will be large studios, each one-and-a-half times the size of the largest studio at Savoy Hill. There will also be suites of dramatic studios; a debate studio, talks studios, and studios devoted to other special requirements. All these studios will be well served with waiting-rooms and band-rooms.

Space is provided in a well-lighted situation on the eighth floor for a large Control Room that will be equipped with apparatus of most up-to-date design, and sufficient to deal effectively with this large range of studios.

It will be obvious that the accommodation in so confined a space of so large a number of studios variously, and often simultaneously, used presents a unique problem in ventilation and temperature regulation. The precautions for ensuring inter-studio silence, already mentioned, must not be jeopardised, and artists must enjoy a suitable degree of comfort within their windowless prisons. The B.B.C. has spared no pains to ensure that the ventilation of the studios shall be on the most up-to-date lines. It is, without doubt, the most complicated of the many problems associated with Broadcasting House, and upon its satisfactory solution depends in a large measure the success of the building. The air supply will be “conditioned” both as regards temperature and humidity, and these will be automatically controlled to suit the number and activities of the persons present at any time in individual studios. When one speaks of “automatic” control of such conditions, it must be understood that the term is in a certain degree relative and that intelligent oversight of apparatus applied to these purposes is essential to its proper functioning.

This is no less true of many other essential features of the building, which are usually taken for granted by most of those who enjoy their benefits. Such matters as the water-supply, the drainage, the lighting, the lifts, the internal communication by telephones and bells are all on an extensive scale, and the break-down of any of these elements would be felt immediately as a serious blow to the amenities of the premises.

Every precaution has been taken to ensure installations of a perfect kind, and to reduce to the narrowest limit dependence on the personal element in the organisation of these features of the building. Further than this one cannot go, any more than the provision and assembly of “wireless” apparatus can of itself ensure successful broadcasting.

That part of the building that is below street-level is far advanced, and the B.B.C. has reason to believe that it will be in occupation of its new headquarters by the autumn of 1931. In spite of the exceptional methods of construction, the contemplated rate of progress has been maintained, and all engineering and other difficulties, so far met with, anticipated and successfully overcome.

  

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