Colin Marrs looks at how Allies and Morrison has reinvented three office blocks as part of a £100 million overhaul of the BBC’s former west London base
Like a lot of old friends, the two 2004 Allies and Morrison buildings at White City Place – vacated after the BBC’s mass migration to Salford six years ago – had hardly changed. That, however, was just the problem for Stanhope Mitsui and AIMCo, the development partners that snapped up the west London site in 2015.
Allies and Morrison was asked to return to the plot and breathe new life into the broadcasting and office space it had previously designed, and to revamp a neighbouring 1990 building by Scott Brownrigg (then Scott Brownrigg Turner).
‘Before we started, the buildings were individual and disconnected,’ says Mike Horton, Stanhope’s project director. ‘So we produced a mini-masterplan to tie the buildings together.’ This, he says, was partly inspired by the idea of making it easier for occupants of the building – anticipated to come from the fashion, media and digital sectors – to meet and exchange ideas.
The practice took a light touch approach on the smallest of the buildings, now renamed Garden House, which has become a new home to the Royal College of Art’s school of architecture and humanities department. The façades plus shell and core have been left in place, with the previous fit-out removed and replaced with raised floors and suspended ceilings.
On the other Allies and Morrison building, the 21,460m² MediaWorks office block, floors were reconfigured to allow a more flexible use of space. This included adding additional toilet and shower facilities, and will allow the building to cater for smaller tenants. On the ground floor, the practice has designed retail space, which it says is more convenient than what went before.
Allies and Morrisons’ re-invention of an existing office building at White City Place, now known as Media Works
It is Scott Brownrigg Turner’s building, the oldest and largest on the campus, that has seen the most radical transformation. Named the Westworks, the building has seen its ground floor substantially remodelled. One of the main changes was the relocation of the reception from the south aspect to the west – facing directly on to the neighbouring MediaWorks.
Allies and Morrison director Ruth Treacher says: ‘The Scott Brownrigg building, and then ours, all faced towards the tube station. It was good to be able to revisit the scheme and make the entrances face the right way – towards each other – creating a busy public space in the space between. Previously, it felt a bit like an out-of-town office park.’
That space, as well as a previously neglected cloistered area inside the Westworks, has benefited from the creation of a series of mini-gardens. Chris Butten, associate at Hyland Edgar Driver landscape architects, is enthusiastic about the result. ‘People these days want a great place to work and demand great social spaces,’ he says. ‘The fact that we have a garden in the centre of the building is unusual but by being able to see through the reception into it, it acts almost like a green façade.’
The internal changes, which include the removal of vermiculite concrete on columns to expose the structure, give the building an industrial aesthetic, without ever slipping into grunginess. Nine retail units have been added, and the building’s dark coloured glazing has been replaced with clearer solar-controlled glass. A 50-seat events studio will host private screenings and corporate events.
Treacher says that turning the previously single-occupier estate into a campus for new creative businesses and multiple tenants has been fascinating and rewarding.
And she is satisfied with the work to the Westworks, which she says ‘has brought it into the fold and made it relate’.
But did the corporate memory of the original design haunt the project? ‘The only thing was an extensive installation in the MediaWorks which had become really dated and didn’t feel right,’ she says. ‘We removed it. Some in the office felt sad about it; in some ways it felt disrespectful. But it worked and more money has been fed into art in the buildings.’
As well as these three completed Allies and Morrison revamps, the AJ100 practice has also submitted plans for a trio of new-builds at the entrance to the site, namely Gateway West, Gateway Central and Gateway East (shown south of Garden House, MediaWorks and Westworks on the plan below).
The applications, which were lodged last November and form the third phase of the development, are expected to be decided this summer.
Ground floor plan media works, garden house and westworks
Location Wood Lane, London W12 7TP
Type of project Refurbishment
Client Stanhope, Mitsui Fudosan and AIMCo
Architect Allies and Morrison
Landscape architect HED
Planning consultant Gerald Eve
Structural engineer AKT II
M&E consultant Sweco
Quantity surveyor Deloitte Real Estate
Principal designer Allies and Morrison
Lighting consultant EQ2
Construction manager Lendlease
Funding Stanhope, Mitsui and AIMCo
Start on site date October 2015
Completion date Summer 2017
Gross internal floor area 72,500m²
Construction cost £100 million
Focus on Fathom’s White City Place ’podcast’ studio
Sat outside MediaWorks is The Pod, a new 12m2 portable podcast studio, designed by up-and-coming practice Fathom Architects. The scheme is being billed as the first studio of its kind to be available for public use in the UK.
The structure has been created exclusively for podcast recordings and is a fully functional studio, seating up to six people.
The design has been inspired by ‘temporary structures, loudspeakers and the movement of sound, to create a disrupted cube with audio waves emanating from its centre’.
According to Fathom Architects, which emerged out of Make last year, the patterned façade with its 350,000 printed ‘pixels’, was generated from the digital script translation of the first spoken words transmitted by radio: ’One, two, three, four. Is it snowing where you are Mr Thiessen?’
Fathom Architects founder Justin Nicholls said: ‘This was an ambitious brief, which required an innovative approach. We wanted to create a striking pavilion which references the current and historical significance of this location in London.
‘We also wanted to build a place that seemed to appear out of nowhere; so we worked with Box Deluxe, a fabrication studio that specialises in building for movies and live events, to build the pod entirely offsite – for it to be installed overnight.’