BBC Worldwide Headquarters

In the skylit 26-foot-diameter central atrium, a prefabricated helical staircase fosters connections between staff. Photograph by Paul Grundy

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In 2010, when the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) announced that it would cease broadcasting from its legendary headquarters, the Television Centre in the White City district of West London, some were concerned about what would become of the much-loved home. Completed in 1960, the distinctive brick-and-glass-clad doughnut-shaped building and its adjacent structures had become synonymous with the BBC and the groundbreaking television programs produced there.

Sold to the developer Stanhope for £200 million in 2012, the site is being reimagined as a mixed-use development with luxury apartments, retail space, and a soon-to-open outpost of the private members-only club Soho House. But even with this substantial change in use, the BBC retains a presence in White City with its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, which is now located in the site’s former news broadcast facility, a red-brick building from 1997 known as Stage 6. HOK led the redesign to create a new home for BBC Worldwide, whose 1,200 employees are primarily engaged in sales and marketing for the BBC brand and its content in various print and digital platforms.

Carving out a central atrium
While reassuringly familiar from the outside, Stage 6’s new interior could not be more different. Gone are the dingy office spaces hemmed in by low ceilings and bulky columns. In their place is a cathedral-like refit. “We were given total creative freedom,” says Beate Mellwig, the project’s principal in charge at HOK. “The BBC is one of the best clients I have worked with in my career. They were incredibly engaged. The only restrictions we had were a start date, an end date, and an incredibly tight budget.”

HOK completely gutted Stage 6’s interior to create six lightfilled floors surrounding a 26-foot-diameter central atrium, which is now an enhanced open area compared to a previously underutilized light well. At the atrium base, a jaw-dropping prefabricated helical staircase, which was installed in nine parts, winds upwards to connect all floors. “The energy that the staircase creates is quite significant— you can feel it when you walk in,” says Mellwig.

Prioritizing visual connections
To facilitate this dramatic intervention, the project began with the mammoth task of relegating the elevator core from the building’s center to its rear—a move that opens up the space while simultaneously encouraging people to use the new staircase, where they are likely to stop and interact.

Creating an off ice with visual connectivity and sightlines between floors was at the top of the BBC’s agenda. HOK designed a number of diff erent areas that they refer to as “base camps,” which cater to a variety of work activities and foster a sense of community. The base camps were a starting point for the design concept—the floor plates were divided into departmental areas but without assigned workstations. Personnel have access to lockers to store belongings, and can sit at any seat. The flexible layout off ers two zones on each floor—a work zone and a collaboration zone. “The collaboration zone wraps around the edge of the atrium and serves two purposes; one is to allow workers to break away from the main work areas for impromptu meetings and the other is to provide a buff er zone between any noise that’s travelling through the atrium and the work zone,” says Tim Hatton, a London-based HOK senior designer.

Stripping back the building’s low ceilings and column cladding created additional space. Meeting rooms have been consolidated to a single location on each floor, near the core, to avoid the need to build walls in the open off ice areas. On the ground floor, HOK located client meeting spaces and multifunction areas where the BBC can host premiere viewings of up-and-coming programs. An additional collaboration area near the base of the stair is lined with bleacher seating with a nearby kitchen and dining area.

Celebrating the legacy of television
Instead of hiding the building’s services, the designers highlighted cable trays and ductwork, which artfully snake around the interior. “The elements that we started to create across the floor plate reflected the idea of the BBC as a ‘television factory’,” Hatton says of the off ice’s overtly industrial aesthetic. “The corrugated metal panels resemble shipping containers and rectangular photocopying and resource hubs with stenciled signage evolved from the idea of stacked wooden crates.”

Opened this year, the new off ice has already had a significant impact on its occupants, according to Hayden Matthews, BBC Worldwide’s head of global property. “The new design experience more closely maps our way of working,” he explains. “There is a seamless transition from formal workplace to more informal. It gives a flexibility of approach where an individual can now choose the type of seating or environment in which to work for the day.”

who Architect and interior designer: HOK. Project team: Simon Douche; Timothy Hatton; Dan Herriott; Barry Hughes; Mark Kennedy; Andy Warner Lacey; Claire McPoland; Beate Mellwig; Sarah Miller. Contractor: Lend Lease. Lighting, engineering, and acoustics: AECOM. Graphics: Cath Leach. IT/AV: Technology Moves. Quantity surveyor: Currie & Brown. Project management: Pro Core. Kitchen/catering: Tricon.
what Paint: Johnstones. Laminate: Polyrey; Arpa; Duhospan. Drywall: British Gypsum. Movable walls: Accordial. Hard flooring: Flowcrete; Domus. Resilient flooring: Kingspan. Carpet/ carpet tile: Jnj Carpets; Forbo. Ceilings: Sas Catering Boh; Skanda Troldtekt. Recessed lighting: Alpha Led. Track lighting: Trilux. Pendants/ chandeliers: Etap; Viso Lighting; Light Years; Heals; Molto Luce; Foscarini; Fagerhult. Other decorative: Projection Lighting. Architectural glass/glazing: Optima. Window treatments: Soltech Blinds. Conference seating: Wilkhahn. Lounge/ reception seating: Fritz Hansen; Hay. Cafeteria/dining seating: Davidson Highley; Deadgood. Auditorium seating: Wilkhahn. Other seating: Lammhults; Very Good And Proper; Modus; Offecct; Naughtone; Boss; Hay; Kusch; Zanotta; Swedese; James Burley; Skandiform. Upholstery: Camira; Kvadrat; Gabriel. Conference/training tables: Wilkhahn. Reception desk: Coran Bespoke. Side tables: Naughtone; Fritz Hansen. Architectural woodworking: Ruddy. Plumbing fixtures/ fittings: Hans Grohe. Textile treatments/finishes: Whiterock.

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