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Thursday24 July 2014

Grade II listing for BBC Television Centre

BBC television centre
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Architecture minister Barbara Follett has grade II listed BBC Television Centre in White City, west London.

Following a request from English Heritage, the Department of Culture, Media & Sport ruled that the central ring and Studio One of the building, designed by Graham Dawbarn of Norman & Dawbarn, were both worthy of listing. The structures were built between 1955 and 1960.

While other studios in the building, as well as the scenery block and canteen, did not meet the level of architectural or historic interest needed for listing, they will nevertheless gain grade II status because of their “structural attachment” to the more notable parts of Television Centre.

Follett said: "BBC Television Centre has a special place in our shared history and heritage.

“The home of BBC television news since 1969, and the place where Blue Peter, Doctor Who and Fawlty Towers first came to life, it has been a torture chamber for politicians and an endless source of first-class entertainment for the nation – sometimes both at the same time. I am delighted to be able to give it the extra protection that listing provides."

A letter from the DCMS to BBC chief operating officer, Caroline Thomson noted that Studio One was the “first purpose-built broadcasting studio in the country built for and used by the nation’s main television broadcaster”.

“In relation to the central ring, [the secretary of state] has noted in particular the entrance hall with its John Piper mosaic; the central drum with its mosaic tiles; the Huxley-Jones gilded sculpture of Helios; and the full-height glazing of the stair and original clock,” the letter continued. “The secretary of state has noted that Studio One features the well-known atomic dots and the name of the building, as well as a cantilevered porch on its exterior.”

Reading the listing letter

PLANNING (LISTED BUILDINGS AND CONSERVATION AREAS) ACT 1990
BUILDINGS OF SPECIAL ARCHITECTURAL OR HISTORIC INTEREST
BBC TELEVISION CENTRE, INCLUDING THE CENTRAL RING AND STUDIO 1, WOOD LANE, HAMMERSMMITH, LONDON

I am writing with regard to the application to list the BBC Television Centre.  I am now in a position to advise you of the Secretary of State’s decision.

After careful consideration of the evidence, including advice from English Heritage and CABE and all of the relevant representations, the Secretary of State has decided to list the BBC Television Centre at Grade II.  The Secretary of State considers that the central ring and studio 1 are of sufficient architectural or historic interest to merit listing.  The Secretary of State is not persuaded that the other studios, the scenery block or the canteen are of special interest but he considers that it would be difficult to exclude these buildings from the listing given their structural attachment to the central ring and studio 1. 

The BBC Television Centre has therefore been added to the List today at Grade II.  I enclose a copy of the list entry for your information.  This makes clear that the studios - apart from studio 1 - the scenery block and the canteen are not considered to be of special interest.

The Secretary of State considers that that the central ring and studio 1 merit listing both in terms of their architectural special interest and their historic special interest, as the first purpose built broadcasting studios in the country, built for and used by the nation’s main television broadcaster.  In relation to the central ring, he has noted in particular the entrance hall with its John Piper mosaic; the central drum with its mosaic tiles; the Huxley-Jones gilded sculpture of Helios; and the full-height glazing of the stair and original clock.  The Secretary of State has noted that studio 1 features the well-known atomic dots and the name of the building, as well as a cantilevered porch on its exterior.  He has further noted that studio 1 forms part of the main view of the BBC Television Centre complex from Wood Lane.   The Secretary of State does not consider that studio 1 is of interest internally.
    
Having considered all the evidence, the Secretary of State is not persuaded that the other studios are of sufficient interest to merit listing.  He has noted the views expressed that the studio block is integral to the functional history of Television Centre, and that it has some architectural interest in terms of its external design.  However, while the Secretary of State accepts that the other studios are of some interest, he considers that the repeated and extensive modifications that have taken place since these buildings were built have diminished much of the architectural and historic interest they once possessed. 

The Secretary of State is also not persuaded that the scenery block is of sufficient interest to merit listing.  He has noted the views expressed that the scenery block is of special historic interest for the key role it played in the development of Television Centre, as well as of some architectural quality for the curved frontage with diaperwork, and the barrel-vaulted roof.  The Secretary of State considers that any architectural interest is very limited.  As the first building to be constructed on the Television Centre site, the Secretary of State accepts that the scenery block has a degree of historic interest, however, he does not consider that this amounts to special historic interest.  He considers that nothing in the building itself illustrates its association with Television Centre or with broadcasting.  Its layout and construction are generic and give no clue as to its history or original purpose.  Furthermore, the building has been heavily and permanently altered, which has further compromised such interest as remains. 

The Secretary of State has noted the views expressed that the canteen is a good period design, a significant part of the Television Centre site and also of historic interest.  However, he is not persuaded that the canteen is of sufficient interest to merit listing.  He considers that any architectural interest is very limited.  Furthermore he considers that any historic interest is diminished by both by the fact that the canteen does not directly illustrate its association with the story of Television Centre or broadcasting, and by the extent of the alterations that have taken place. 

If you consider that the decision has been wrongly made you may write to the Listing Review officer at the Department seeking a review of the decision within 28 days of the date of this letter.  An example of a decision made wrongly would be where there was a factual error or an irregularity in the process which affected the outcome. You may also ask for a review of the decision if you have any significant evidence relating to the special architectural or historic interest of the building which was not previously considered.

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