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A new filling for the BBC’s doughnut

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NEWS ANALYSIS: As Stanhope’s redevelopment of BBC Television Centre reaches its halfway point, Laura Mark talks to all the architects involved in the £400 million project

At the BBC Television Centre in west London, last year’s Stirling Prize-winner Allford Hall Monaghan Morris has gathered together an impressive team of architects – both up-and-coming and well-established – to work on its revamp of the historic Doughnut-shaped home of TV. 

Led and appointed by AHMM, the nine practices will create around 1,000 homes as well as offices, a hotel, gym, cinema, restaurants and cafés surrounded by newly designed public realm opening up the site to the public. 

‘We’re not greedy,’ says AHMM’s Paul Monaghan speaking at a rare get-together of the entire design team. ‘We wanted to coordinate other architects, bringing in the best architects we can. We wanted people who had similar sensibilities but not a similar style.’ 

Stanhope bought the iconic BBC site for £200 million in summer 2012, and much of the development is set to complete in 2018 with the rest due in 2020.

The developer, which has built £20 billion worth of projects over the last 30 years, confesses that employing such a diverse range of architects on one development is not its everyday practice. 

‘This complex arrangement of architects is unusual, quite difficult and makes the project much more complicated than it needs to be,’ admits Stanhope Television Centre managing director Alistair Shaw. 

So is this rich pool of architectural talent delivering? And how does such an eclectic team work in practice?

BBC Television Centre Masterplan

BBC Television Centre Masterplan

Why did you decide to give work to other practices?

Paul Monaghan We wanted to work with people we knew, who have a certain mindset, are rigorous and have a distinctive style but would also be good fun, and who we would enjoy working with. When it came to the penthouses, for instance, I could feel we were going to go down an interior-design route. I didn’t have any appetite to do all the interiors and it wouldn’t have been right for the project. That is when we decided to involve architects who had a good feeling for interiors. 

How did it feel to be chosen to work on the project?

Richard Lavington We do a lot of projects in this way. There is inevitably a competitive element that comes out, but it is healthy. 

Philip Marsh It is a brilliant opportunity and we’re all quite comfortable working together. Where projects have a range of different architects you get a richness and delight. 

Paul Monaghan The hardest task is co‑ordination, especially when there are so many different elements. It can be really complicated. 

How are you working together on the schemes? Have you been influenced by each other’s designs?

Tomas Stokke [With the penthouses] we came up with initial design concepts, then we had a number of sessions where we met the other designers to talk about some of the common design decisions such as the pod manufacturing for the bathrooms. We haven’t influenced each other in terms of design but there are some commonalities. It has been a very enjoyable process.  

Paul Monaghan The penthouses weren’t a [true] competition. We secretly looked at architects and then I gave a presentation to Stanhope on all the people I thought would be appropriate. Then Stanhope met with those they thought would work and we told those architects we were going to pay them to look at it. So for them it was not like they were in competition – this really helps. We wanted different designs and differences in the apartment layouts. So if someone was designing a very open-plan living space we’d make someone else do one that wasn’t. 

Philip Marsh All the pavilion buildings were developed in parallel, so we were aware of what others were doing. Nothing was set in stone. So we have played off against each other and been mindful of what others are doing. 

How have the designs been influenced by the history of the Television Centre?

David Cawston That was the starting point. You look at what’s there and the details. For us our designs came out of the stair and the walls and resulted in the fluted elements. 

Alistair Shaw We went a long way to try and bring out the heritage in the flats. Some of these moves were risky, but buyers do react favourably to it. There is more to do on Plot E. It was a very important part of the site – it was where all the scenery was made. People will want to know about its history so we have some more work to do there to try and bring that through. 

Paul Monaghan We’ve made the question-mark-shaped building all brick. It had been changed a lot over time and we’ve tried to make it more coherent. All the other new buildings are deliberately not trying to be anything like that brick. There are a lot of flats so you don’t want everything to look the same. 

Richard Lavington We haven’t taken a lot of cues from Television Centre; we’ve taken them from the masterplan and the routes through the site. Our site was the car park so it is not really part of the rich history of Television Centre. 

It has been designed to within an inch of its life to ensure that it is completely unified

Alistair Shaw

How are you making it feel a part of the city?

Alistair Shaw It is completely open – a piece of public realm that you can walk through. It is a great piece of architecture, a historic part of London which is so close to White City. We have put a huge amount of effort into every building. It has been designed to within an inch of its life to ensure that it is completely unified. We have great commercial spaces integrating with routes through the site. We’re leasing the ground floor before the space is completed. It took a lot to get that to work. 

Paul Monaghan There are two things that make it significantly different to other mixed-use projects: first, the BBC was not leaving the site; and second, [private members club] Soho House is coming into the development. Those two components set the scheme off in a very different way. It didn’t need to be a ‘Westfield’. That is already over the street. It had to be something different. 

Philip Marsh What also sets it apart is the strength of the geometry. It holds together and has a strength of identity that is so different to other developments. 

Richard Lavington There is a heritage which could have made it a difficult place to connect to its surroundings but the routes through and the buildings further away will link it to its neighbours and adjoining developments. 

How are you maintaining the design quality at construction?

Paul Monaghan We are using a construction management contract which is very different. Stanhope is managing all of the subcontractors. All of the architects of the penthouses work through us. 

Ben Cross One of the first questions we had was how were we going to construct the façade. There was constant sampling and prototypes. 

David Mikhail We are about to submit our detailed planning application, and I’ve never had to work so hard on a planning application before. Stanhope is very thorough and requires a lot of information – it is very unusual pre-planning. It suggests quality is paramount. 

Alistair Shaw Residential schemes like this come down to the detail. It has to be right early on and can’t be left to the contractor to change things. 

Who was there?

  • Paul Monaghan, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
  • Philip Marsh, dRMM
  • Ben Cross, Duggan Morris 
  • Richard Lavington, MaccreanorLavington Architects
  • Tomas Stokke, Haptic Architects
  • David Mikhail, Mikhail Riches
  • Alistair Shaw, Stanhope
  • David Cawston, Piercy & Co
  • Lloyd Spencer, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
  • Phil Coffey, Coffey Architects

The masterplan 

AHMM TVC Masterplan

AHMM TVC Masterplan

Plots A, B, C & G

BBC Television Centre, plots ABCG

BBC Television Centre, plots ABCG

Apartments with commercial

Architects AHMM with penthouses in block C by Archer Humphryes, Coffey Architects, Haptic, and Piercy & Co

The penthouses

Haptic

Haptic

Haptic

Our six apartments draw on our Scandinavian background. We have a warm contemporary palette with lots of timber. 

We’ve tried to create a simple organisation of space by placing all the bathrooms on the dark side so living spaces can have a view out. 

On the upper floor we’ve introduced a central concrete cube which sits in the middle of the space and includes all the relevant functions while sub-dividing the space. 

At the entrance we have taken out a large portion of the concrete floor to create a double height space where we have hung the steel staircase. As you come in you get the feeling of space and get the views out. 

Tomas Stokke, Haptic Architects

Piercy & Co

BBC Television Centre Masterplan

BBC Television Centre Masterplan

We really liked the stair of the existing building. The walls of it inspired us to use a fluted design in our five apartments. It fitted really well with the existing building. 

We are CNC cutting marble to create a flute. It’s ornate and has been difficult to create cost wise and buildability wise. The fluted wall appears in the kitchen and the bathroom. 

We also have a feature stair which takes you up from the bedroom floor to the living areas above. Hopefully it feels quite special with light flooding through the windows, a view out and a cantilevered balustrade. 

David Cawston, Piercy & Co

Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

BBC Television Centre Masterplan

BBC Television Centre Masterplan

Having designed the building we then had to work out how to best utilise the penthouse.

We ended up with an edge plan typology with a very large terrace in between. It means we can place the services and kitchens in between. 

They have quite a clean and warm palette of materials. Classic fifties materials like bronze and brass ware give a modernist feel to the materials. 

It is designed around the kitchen being the centre of your house – for people who like entertaining. A timber bench opens out on the terrace and it can all be opened up. 

Lloyd Spencer, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

Archer Humphryes

BBC Television Centre Masterplan

BBC Television Centre Masterplan

Here, we wanted one apartment that was very different in flavour. This is very traditional in plan – more a series of rooms rather than flowing spaces. 

It is much more eclectic. There are really interesting things like a traditional ceiling but then it is distorted to make you think differently. 

Paul Monaghan on behalf of Archer Humphryes

Coffey Architects 

BBC Television Centre Masterplan

BBC Television Centre Masterplan

Penthouse by Haptic

We wanted to continue the concentric curves of the building from outside to in while creating a feeling of movement. 

The apartments feature a terrazzo floor with brass inlets into which slot filigree screens that break up the spaces. 

Phil Coffey, Coffey Architects 

Plot D

Office

Architect Duggan Morris

BBC Television Centre Masterplan

BBC Television Centre Masterplan

This used to be the site of the BBC’s restaurant block and the Blue Peter garden. We are quite lucky in terms of our setting in that we are in between Television Centre and Hammersmith Park. We realized we are at a gateway between the site and the park. 

One of the things we did early on was pump up the areas through massing studies. We’ve always tried to achieve a building which responds to a setting and an efficiency but also sits within a city of its own and has a landmark quality responding physically and aesthetically to site. 

This is our first curved building. We’ve set a three metre grid of vertical pilasters which gives the sense of the building curving but it is actually faceted. 

Ben Cross, Duggan Morris

Plot E

Townhouses and apartments

Architect dRMM

BBC Television Centre Masterplan

BBC Television Centre Masterplan

Our building sits on the site of the original drama and scenery building which was built before the other buildings here were completed. 

The shape of our plot is an E-shape so we have three projecting fingers. It is due south facing so the sun will track across the façade all day. 

The main massing principle was to drop the building to the south to create a row of 18 townhouses. This allows us to bring light deep into the site so we have these splaying fingers with a central courtyard space which means all the apartments get fantastic panoramic views. 

The townhouses and lower levels of the courtyards are brick– this is the same brick that has been used elsewhere across the Television Centre site. The front facades of the taller elements reference the fifties alternated panels of the tiles with sliding screens while the body of the building is clad in glazed terracotta. 

Philip Marsh, dRMM

Plot F

Mews housing

Architect Mikhail Riches

BBC Television Centre Masterplan

BBC Television Centre Masterplan

Our competition brief was based on the original masterplan of two terraces of 10 townhouses arranged facing each other around a village green. Whilst they were identical one terrace backed onto some very nice Victorian streets – back garden to back garden and we realised the community there would be keeping an eye on the scheme. The other terrace backed onto a railway viaduct. 

We developed two different house typologies for the different contexts and found that using the parameter plans that had been given permission we could actually fit in another floor and 23 homes rather than 20. 

On the east we have designed a narrow house typology with the same area. These are quite introverted courtyard houses and are very different to the houses on the west side of the site which are more traditional and have back gardens. 

David Mikhail, Mikhail Riches

Plot H

Residential with affordable portion 

Architect Maccreanor Lavington

BBC Television Centre Masterplan

BBC Television Centre Masterplan

Our site is slightly separated from all the others by a railway line and also has a very large frontage to Wood Lane. It is the location for all the site’s affordable housing which is shared ownership. There is commercial space on the ground floor and it faces the entrance to Westfield Shopping Centre providing a front door to the site from that direction. 

We wanted the character of the buildings to be in the tradition of mansion blocks. It is less connected to the geometry of the Television Centre’s Helios building. 

The overall massing is two separate buildings with a similar size and shape. To the rear they scale down and there is a much smaller terrace which is similar to the houses which sit opposite. 

Richard Lavington, Maccreanor Lavington Architects

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