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  Mike Todd

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Broadcasting House
Studios and offices

Designing studios for making radio programmes was not new. The BBC already had some experience in designing studios at Savoy Hill, but had also built studio premises around the country - in the first four years of its history, the BBC had designed and built nearly 30 studio centres. But Broadcasting House was something different and co-operation between the BBC's Civil Engineer, M T Tudsbery, and the consortium's architect, Lt-Colonel G Val Myer was to prove valuable in balancing form and function.

The site itself was not particularly suited to such an enterprise - it was narrow, and awkwardly shaped. Nevertheless, a design philosophy emerged to make best use of the space. Val Myer expressed the problem in an article in the 1932 BBC Handbook:

In the case of Broadcasting House, we had first to consider its functions. These are twofold; the actual broadcasting, and the administration of broadcasting. Obviously, the studios, Control Room, and the accommodation of technical equipment come first, with the actual studios as the most important factor of all.

Accordingly, it was the planning of the studios which had to be the key to the whole scheme. At the outset, it was thought that the ideal arrangement would be to place all the studios on one floor and, as protection against inter-studio interference, to surround each by a complete circuit of brick-built corridor. As protection against extraneous noises, the studios would be placed at the top of the building. The site of Broadcasting House, however, though picturesque in form, is irregular, which fact would have caused studios so grouped to be of awkward shape. Besides this, although the BBC, at that early staged, contemplated fewer studios than have now been built, the system of indificual insulation by corridors and walls would have been so extravagant that the areas left for studios would have been quite inadequate ... hence the open-area system of insulation, adopted elsewhere, was out of the question.

Val Myer's solution was to put all the studios inside a central thick brick tower. Studios didn't need daylight, and would in any case be provided with their own ventilation - offices, on the other hand, needed daylight and could be placed outside the tower on the outside walls of the building. Sound insulation above and below the studios would be achieved by ensuring that layers of rooms (such as music libraries, book stores and so on) separated the studios vertically. This design concept was key to the success of the building, although in deciding on this approach, a number of planned features had to be scrapped - one of these was a car park (complete with a small "railway" to move cars around to the parking spaces) which had been planned for the basement.

The studios themselves were their own special works of architectural art. Lord Gerald Wellesley, Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects wrote, in 1933:

The interior of Broadcasting House is the most important example of untraditional decoration yet completed in this country. The accumulated rubbish or wisdom of the ages has been washed away, and something which is definitely and entirely new has taken its place. Such a phenomenon has never occurred before in the world's history.

Although the building itself was ultimately designed by Val Myer, the studios (with the exception of the Concert Hall, which Val Myer designed himself) were designed by different designers. These designers, Raymond McGrath, Serge Chermayeff, Wells Coates, Dorothy Warren Trotter and Edward Mauffe, were given more or less free reign to design their studios as they wished.

The building was opened with a total of 12 floors, and the table below shows the general make-up of each floor.

Floor Studios Offices & other areas Technical areas
9th floor   Studio 8A ROOF  
8th floor Studio 8B Band Room
Waiting Room
Control Room
Listening Room
7th floor Studio 7A
Studio 7B
Studio 7C
Studio 7D
Studio 6A
Studio 6D
General Offices Ultra Short Wave Transmitter
6th floor Studio 6B
Studio 6C
General Offices
Battery Room
Motor Generator
5th floor     Music Library
General Offices
Engineers Listening Room
4th floor News Studio 1
News Studio 2
Studio 3A
Studio 3E (& gallery)
Play Library
General Offices
3rd floor Studio 3B
Studio 3C
Studio 3D
Board Room
General Offices
2nd floor     Committee Rooms
Band Room
Stationery Store
General Offices
Council Chamber
1st floor   Concert Hall Council Chamber
Committee Rooms
Main Entrance Hall
  Main Entrance Hall
Drawing Room
General Offices
  Green Room
General Offices
Basement   Studio BA
Studio BB
Musical instrument store
Listening Room
Battery Room
    Dressing Rooms
Ventilation plant
Fuel store
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