Originally designed by Graham Dawbarn and operational by 1960, BBC Television Centre was the first production hub of its kind in the world. Consisting of purpose-built studios and offices radiating around a central circular space, the site was never intended for public access. The BBC sold it to Stanhope plc in 2012, and with lead architect Allford Hall Monaghan Morris and Gillespies providing landscape and public realm consultancy, a complex process of transforming the area into a residential mixed-use place began. The brief called for 1,000 new homes, a boutique hotel and office space, upgraded studios for the BBC to let and entertainment and leisure facilities, set within a new public realm. The masterplan had to demonstrate to the planners how the extensive Grade II-listed buildings would be preserved and enhanced while introducing carefully located new built form. Fundamental to the masterplan was establishing new and convincing public connectivity including linking Hammersmith Park to Wood Lane through the centre of the site.
Gillespies were charged with creating a network of interconnected external spaces, sensitively designed to contribute to the setting and uses of the old and new buildings and to connect the new development to the wider White City Opportunity Area. These spaces include ‘The Forecourt’, ‘Helios Courtyard’, ‘Crescent Boulevard’ and ‘residential courtyard gardens’.
The forecourt is the primary public space and the main entrance to the development located off Wood Lane. The design is a contemporary reinterpretation of a London Garden Square, incorporating active perimeters, pockets of green spaces; seating, pedestrian priority shared surface and large green spaces for outdoor activity and events. The area rises up from Wood Lane in a series of broad terraces, each with its own distinctive character and function. The lower terrace can be used for managed events; the south facing terrace consists of an open lawn set off by vibrantly planted borders, and the upper terrace a more intimate garden serving as a quiet retreat. The space is overlooked by a generous retail terrace, optimising views into the forecourt and across to the famous Studio 1 facade.
The Helios Courtyard
The Helios Courtyard is a spectacular circular drum that sits at the heart of the development, formed by the retained listed buildings. The design maintains the simplicity of the original architectural concept and introduces a softer, garden character, replacing an old glass roof. The planting is rich in shade tolerant shrubs and herbaceous species. The gently mounded form sets off the refurbished fountain and Helios sculpture and surrounds a new lift and stair access to the basement gym. The design provides an amenity for the enjoyment of residents and for the public moving through from the forecourt to the Park beyond.
The Crescent Boulevard
The Crescent Boulevard transforms the existing service roadway running around the site into a formal street. The tree-lined streetscape creates an open and accessible public connection between Hammersmith Park and Wood Lane, as well as serving all the residential buildings along its length.
Residential Courtyard Gardens
A new resident’s only courtyard garden is created between the existing Helios building and the residential block to the north. The resulting dramatic curved space provides an internalised spine open to the sky, drawing light and greenery into the void and offering informal seating and relaxation opportunities for the residents. Subtle landform and groups of multi-stem trees punctuate the space, with low-key integrated playable landscape features. Lush and richly planted areas provide structure and offer a subtle definition between private terraces and communal space.
Stephen Richards, Partner in charge of the project at Gillespies, comments:
‘The opportunity to work on Television Centre gave us unprecedented access to a truly remarkable and unique environment. As the first purpose-built home of television broadcasting, this complex of buildings became synonymous with the news stories and popular entertainment shows that helped define the latter half of the 20th century. There can be few places that are held in such warmth and affection by the nation, and, as a team, we were therefore mindful from the start of our responsibility to handle this site with care.
Yet this is a project about new beginnings, and much of our work has been to create and shape engaging external spaces within the historic fabric. By unlocking the site to the public with easy connections with the surrounding area, Television Centre we feel we have shown how powerful landscape architecture can be in transforming urban space; enhancing city living through access to beautiful spaces and nature.’
Client: Stanhope plc
Other designers involved in the design of landscape:
• Landscape Architect: Gillespies
• Lead Architect: Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
• Structural/Civil Engineer: ARUP
• Irrigation Design: Waterscapes
• Lighting Design: Pritchard Themis
• Signage and Wayfinding: Holmes Wood
• HVM and Security: QCIC
• Access Consultant: David Bonnett Associates
Project location: Television Centre, 101 Wood Lane, London W12 7FW
Design year: 2012-2015
Year Built: 2015-2018