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Beeb tunes in to Alsop & Stormer

The bbc has signed Alsop & Stormer to its coveted framework agreement of preferred architects.

Practice head Will Alsop said that he had clinched the agreement with the broadcaster in the last ten days. The move puts the practice in contention for major commissions expected soon.

The deal comes as the bbc finalises plans for a major shake-up of its London buildings which could see it quit Bush House and build new offices at White City or at other sites across the capital.

The bbc has built up a war chest of £20 million - growing by £10 million a year - to spend on new or refurbished buildings. The broadcaster's property chiefs are planning to present a raft of options to the board of governors and new director general Greg Dyke later this month.

Foster & Partners and degw are understood to be the other architects on the corporation's preferred list for new building projects.

The catalyst for the bbc's new property strategy is the expiry of its lease on Bush House, home of the World Service, in 2005.

'The question is: how do we resolve London?' said bbc property spokeswoman Jane Futrell. 'The buildings need to be adaptable to new technology and the interaction between tv, online and radio needs to be better accommodated.'

The aj has also learned that Foster and Partners and degw were commissioned last year to produce exploratory designs for new headquarters buildings on different sites in the capital. The architects were asked to design for major organisational change at the corporation and produce buildings which bring together broadcasters and journalists from different media in a single building.

degw drew up a refit plan for a Lloyds tsb building near Blackfriars Bridge, and it is understood that Foster & Partners produced plans for new buildings at London Bridge City on the south bank. Designs were submitted in secret at the end of the year but were put on ice by the bbc.

The bbc uses 522 buildings uk-wide, but the property department believes the future of its largest buildings in London - Broadcasting House, Bush House, Television Centre and White City - poses the biggest challenge. Futrell pointed out that the bbc owns a site at White City next to the newer existing bbc building - this looks to be the favourite for a major new broadcasting centre.

bbc Property is also considering a partnership with private property companies to raise funds and share the management of its portfolio. Futrell said discussions have been under way for 18 months.

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