Television Centre, Shepherd's Bush, London

Graham Dawbarn of Norman & Dawbarn
Date Built
Opened June 1960
Wood Lane, London
BBC Television Centre occupies a site in Shepherd's Bush that in 1908 was home to the Franc-British Exhibition.  Plans were drawn up in the post war years by the architectural practice of Graham Dawbarn in collaboration with the wonderfully named BBC's civil engineer Marmaduke Tudsbery-Tudsbery.  Apparently, the design began as a question mark on the back of the proverbial envelope which was meant to indicate a lack of ideas but was subsequently adopted as a configuration for the building.  The building curls around an inner courtyard and at the centre of that courtyard is a fountain surmounted by a statue of Helios, the Greek god of the sun.  Created by the sculptor T.B. Huxley-Jones, it symbolises the radiation of television around the world.

Helios stands atop a pillar at the centre of the fountain.  At the base there are two reclining figures  symbolising sound and vision.

The fountain turned out to be rather noisy for a building where it has been rather important to filter out extraneous noise, so over the years it has only been turned on for special occasions. 

The part of the building that surrounds the courtyard is known as the Main Block although it has also been referred to as "the doughnut".  The BBC's handbook for the new building in 1960 described the Main Block as follows:  "The Main Block of seven stories rises 110 feet, is 500 feet in diameter, and covers an area nearly twice the size of that occupied by St. Paul's Cathedral.  There are about four hundred offices, providing accommodation for nearly three thousand people with dressing rooms for between five and six hundred artists."  Apparently the design of the building was such that technical staff and "talent" had different entrances and worked literally on different levels.  The entrance for "the talent" was through the "Main Reception" area decorated with a mural by John Piper.

The offices, canteen, and the scenery block are all important parts of this production facility but at its heart are the studios and in 1960 the handbook said that there were seven planned and four in use.  Studio One was designed to be, " ... the biggest in the Centre, measuring 108 ft x 100 ft x 54 ft high.  It is intended for light entertainment and music programmes and will be able to accommodate an audience of six hundred."

Over the years, as the building grew, further studios were added until today it has twelve.  It shouldn't be concluded though that the scenery block was a minor aspect of the building since in 1960 it was described as, " ... covering nearly an acre, accommodates the Design Department. Here the scenery, settings, and properties are made and supplied for television programmes. Completed scenery is assembled in a setting area from which it is moved either into a scenery runway, which has direct access to all seven studios, or into vans for convevance to outlying studios. In the lofty scenic artists studio, 8,000 individual setings and 370 backcloths are completed annually. There is storage space in the scenery block for 4,000 scenic items, 5,000 pieces of furniture and 100,000 small properties."

In 2010 it was announced that the BBC would cease broadcasting from Television Centre in 2013.  The corporation has been engaged in a consolidation of operations into the new Media City in Salford and the refurbished and extended Broadcasting House on Regent Street, London.