Broadcasting House

BBC Broadcasting House

SOME six years ago it became obvious that the B.B.C.’s premises at Savoy Hill were inadequate for its rapidly increasing activities, and early in 1926 the B.B.C. decided to look for new and larger headquarters. It was hoped that these might be secured by adapting some existing building for broadcasting; but it was soon realized that the requirements made adaptation particularly difficult and ruled out many buildings, such as the old Dorchester House, which otherwise might have been suitable. It was not surprising, therefore, that after the consideration of many existing buildings, the B.B.C. reluctantly decided that, in spite of the far higher expense, a new building would have to be provided. In any case it was considered necessary that the building should be in Central London, and the various proposed sites were all within a short radius of Piccadilly Circus. Among them were the Aldwych site now partly occupied by India House, the Adelphi site, part of the Grosvenor House site, and a site in Portman Square. Preliminary plans were actually prepared for the development of several sites.

The photographs in this site have been taken by the B.B.C.’s official photographers, M. O. Dell and H. L. Wainwright, unless otherwise specified. The colour photographs are by Colour Photographs (British and Foreign) Ltd. The plans have been drawn by Dora Batty. The illustrations have been reproduced from process blocks by Alfred Craske. The original book was printed and bound in England at the Curwen Press, Plaistow. 

The whole of the broadcasting equipment at Broadcasting House has been designed and installed by the Engineering Branch of the B.B.C.




The facilities provided by Broadcasting House should make it possible for programmes to be handled far more smoothly than in the past, with, it is hoped, an improvement in timing and presentation. 

The rapid developments which have been made in recent years in the all-important question of acoustics, and the fact that studios have been built as studios and are not converted offices, should lead to a noticeable improvement in reproduction. In the past, for various reasons which are outside the scope of this article, studios had to be made ‘dead’, i.e. with practically no reverberation. To-day a brilliant and natural effect can be obtained, comparable with the acoustics of the best outside halls from which broadcasts are relayed.

The additional accommodation will permit more elaborate programmes to be undertaken, and will provide more space for rehearsals, while the provision of the latest methods of switching will enable minor faults to be rectified during the run of a transmission far more rapidly than has ever been possible in the past.

British materials have been used almost exclusively in the construction and decoration of Broadcasting House. At first the B.B.C. met with difficulty in obtaining British substitutes for some foreign fabrics and materials which were required for decorating the studios. Eventually the efforts of the B.B.C. and the designers resulted in certain firms being persuaded to manufacture, at competitive prices, articles of the same quality as the foreign ones. The heavier materials — stone, bricks, timber, metalwork, fittings — were all of British manufacture, all the timber coming from within the Empire.

The design itself may truthfully be described as an English design, an example of modern English architecture, which, although it shows the influence of twentieth-century currents of thought, yet pays its respects to the great English tradition of urban building which still lingers in Portland Place. As Mr. Howard Robertson says: ‘If good architectural design, as all true architects believe, is an aid to human efficiency, the future of British broadcasting is doubly bright.’

View of the roof
6 ❧ The Clock Tower and the South-west Corner of the Building, showing the Royal Standard flying on the occasion of H.M. the King's visit on July 7th, 1932. Note on the balcony the loudspeaker used for broadcasting Big Ben at approximately its natural strength.