The Entrance Hall

The Entrance Hall

The main entrance has, appropriately, been placed at the centre of the rounded façade towards Upper Regent Street. On entering, the visitor finds himself in a fine, spacious, semicircular hall, with lifts and doorways opposite. His eye is at once caught by Eric Gill’s statue of the Sower, a man broadcasting seed, and the Latin inscription over the central arch. On the left is the counter of the B.B.C. Bookshop; on the right the reception desk. The walls and pillars are faced with Hopton-Wood stone, a beautiful pinky-grey English limestone, rather like granite in texture, but made up of innumerable fossil shells. Its surface qualities, which have made it a favourite among modern sculptors, are shown to advantage by the massive square pillars devoid of all ornament. The hall is lighted in a modern way by reflected light from the ceiling. In the words of Professor Reilly:

The semicircle is defined by a range of strong piers with space behind, on one side, for a counter. This space is where the site, with its odd potato-like oudine, overlaps the semicircle and shows that, in the interior here, the architect very ably has turned his difficulties to account. The outside, of course, had to follow the oudine of the potato. With land of enormous value per square foot, architecture has, as things are to-day, to take a humble place. However, in the interior of this Entrance Hall, where the architect was able, by this device of a semicircle of piers, to free himself, the architecture is strong, simple and modern in the sense that it does not rely on traditional motives for its appeal. 

Immediately behind this Entrance Hall is the great central core of the building, following the outline of the site and surrounded from top to bottom by a thick wall. This is the central studio block, and, once the artists have passed into it from the Entrance Hall, they cross no administrative portion of the building. Their cloak rooms, rest rooms, refreshment rooms and lavatories and, of course, all their studios and concert halls, are within it, artificially lit and ventilated. . . . When the artists have finished their work, they pass out the same way. If however, instead of going through the central doors for the artists, one goes to the right or to the left, or takes the corresponding stairs or lifts, one enters at any floor the long office corridor which completely encircles the studio block. This corridor serves the layer, one room thick, of offices which everywhere occupies the external face of the building. Being, from the tightness of the site, necessarily rather narrow and, consequently, low, it also serves to carry in its ceiling the trunks bringing fresh, cleaned, warmed or cooled air, as may be desired, to the studios.

A mirrored rest area with chairs and a sofa, tables and a bookshelf
3 ❧ THE CONCERT HALL GREEN ROOM, by courtesy of Docker Bros., Ladywood, Birmingham.

The Concert Hall

The Concert Hall

The Concert Hall is the biggest of all the studios, and perhaps the most important architectural feature of the building; for which reason its design and decoration were retained in the hands of the architect. The hall is as large as the conditions of the site permitted, the floor dimensions being 106 feet by 42 feet, and it occupies three floors in depth, viz. the first, ground, and lower ground floors, giving a height of 31 feet. The hall is wedge-shaped owing to its lines following the external lines of the site. The splay is not sufficient to be realized at first sight, but it has the strange perspective effect of making the hall appear very much longer from the back than from the front, an advantage from the point of view of the audience. It was never anticipated that the hall could be made big enough to seat the full B.B.C. Symphony Orchestra of 114 players, which normally performs in the Queen’s Hall. The B.B.C. intended rather to use the hall for the smaller component orchestras, the largest of which, the ‘B’ Orchestra of 79 players, is not too big for the hall, and is able to play to the full audience of over 500 people. The volume of the hall is 125,000 cubic feet, which in the ordinary way would not be very big in relation to the numbers of the audience and performers, but the ventilating system, described more fully below, works so admirably that the usual effect of hot stale air is entirely absent. In the opinion of Professor Reilly:

This Hall is the finest thing in the building. It is strongly modelled with great bracketed beams to break up the sound. Without reliance on traditional forms, it yet has great scale and power. There is, indeed, something Cyclopean about it which provides a suitably serious air, and at once separates it from the ordinary run of frivolous apartments in which English people are, as a rule, compelled to listen to music. Yet, with all this, it does not lack interest. That is given largely by the lighting, the tapering shape, and the heavy crouching balcony. Altogether, it is such a Hall as Piranesi might have designed had he dreamed of such instead of prisons.

First Floor

Diagram of the first floor
A view from the stairs looking at lift doors and further stairs
75 ❧ The First Floor Landing, showing the staircase up to the Council Chamber and the Staff Lifts.
Two curved tables, one long, one short, surrounded by upholstered chairs
76 ❧ The Council Chamber. A general view, showing the walls panelled in Tasmanian oak, the indirect lighting, and the furniture. The tables are made of Queensland walnut of a dark grey colour. In height the Council Chamber occupies one and a half floors, the entrance being on a level half-way between the first and second floors.
Rows of desks, each with a woman behind a typewriter
77 ❧ The General Typing Office on the first floor, with windows looking onto Portland Place.
Armless upholstered chairs around a glass-topped table
78 ❧ The First Floor Committee Room.

Ground Floor

Diagram of the ground floor
A wide space with square pillars and a mosaic floor
80 ❧ The Entrance Hall, looking from the corner by the staircase towards the doors.

81 ❧ The Entrance Hall, looking towards the staircase at the Portland Place corner of the Hall. The staff lifts are shown in the centre of the picture, the door into the Artists’ Foyer being just behind the right-hand pillar. The Latin inscription, with its translation, reads as follows:




This Temple of the Arts and Muses is dedicated to Almighty God by the first Governors of Broadcasting in the year 1931, Sir John Reith being Director-General. It is their prayer that good seed sown may bring forth a good harvest, that all things hostile to peace or purity may be banished from this house, and that the people, inclining their ear to whatsoever things are beautiful and honest and of good report, may tread the path of wisdom and uprightness.

A stylised statue of a man sowing by broadcast
82 ❧ 'The Sower', by Eric Gill. The photograph shows the sculpture before the finishing touches have been added.
A bright open space with square pillars
83 ❧ The Artists' Foyer, showing (behind the pillars) one of the lifts for taking artists to the various studio floors. The photograph is by Arthur Gill.
Noticeboards reading 'LONDON REGIONAL' and 'REHEARSALS'
84 ❧ The other side of the Foyer, showing the Studio Notification Boards facing the lifts and the Entrance Hall door.
Comfortable chairs in a room with picture windows
85 ❧ The Drawing Room: the chairs are upholstered in green leather to match the pale green carpet. The tables are made of Padauk, an Indian wood of a reddish colour with a grain resembling mahogany.

Lower Ground Floor

Diagram of the lower ground floor
A large theatre-like space
87 ❧ The Concert Hall, looking towards the platform. This and the next photograph are by S. W. Newbery.
A large theatre-like space
88 ❧ The Concert Hall, taken from the stage, looking towards the gallery, and showing the seating accommodation for 538 people in addition to a full symphony orchestra. The microphone is seen suspended in the middle.

89 ❧ The six Friezes on the Western Wall of the Concert Hall, forming horizontal panels under the rectangular lights. The carvings are of classical scenes representing Poetry, Dancing, a Ball Game, a Sacrifice, a Foot Race, and Music. The sculptor, Mr. Gilbert Bayes, is to produce a further six reliefs, with modern subjects, for the opposite wall.

Frieze: Poetry
Pegasus unseals the spring of Poetry.
Frieze: Dance
'Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!' – Keats, Ode to a Nightingale
Frieze: Ball
Odysseus watches Nausicaa and her companions at a game of Ball.
Frieze: Sacrifice
'Who are these coming to the Sacrifice?' – Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn
Frieze: Foot-race
Milanion Conquers Atalanta in the Foot-race,
Frieze: music
'Naught so stockish hard and full of rage
But Music for a time doth change its nature.' – Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice
The balcony with a large clock
90 ❧ The Balcony of the Concert Hall.
A view of a comfortable chair through some curtains
91 ❧ The Green Room, for the Conductors and Artists using the Concert Hall.
A semi-transparent clock with lines springing up from the bottom
92 ❧ The Green Room Clock.