Television Centre, the BBC’s HQ for more than 50 years, was once the beating heart of British TV. Designed to produce 1,500 hours of programme material a year, this was where some of the country’s most iconic shows, from Dr Who to Strictly Come Dancing, were made.
The legendary doughnut-shaped building was sold in 2013 and is now poised to become one of the hottest mixed-use developments in the capital, comprising homes, offices, restaurants, a hotel and a private members’ club. But its previous incarnation hasn’t been forgotten: many of its original features, including its shape, the famous Helios statue and atomic dot wall, have been retained while three of the old studios are being refurbished and will host live audience recordings.
The Grade II building in White City is one of a number of recent developments in which contemporary design and cutting-edge engineering serve to accentuate rather than obliterate a building’s origins. While Television Centre harks back to its creative past, for example, Gasholders, which provided gas storage for the capital in the 19th and 20th century, evokes London’s industrial history. Here, apartments have been built within a refurbished triplet of Grade II cast-iron guide-frames, with the 123 individual columns alone having undergone two years of refurbishment.
Similarly, Kentish Town’s Maple Building, with its elegant, clean lines and large, Crittall-style steel window frames, emphasises its former life as a furniture factory then a clothing factory. The Maple Building is completed and ready to be moved into.
In Islington, a historic Edwardian Royal Mail depot is being sympathetically converted into a mixed use development. The site’s grand double-arched entrance has been opened up and a new shopping arcade and civic square created.
Not only do these developments provide desirable spaces in which to live, they prove that you don’t have to demolish a city’s past to build its future.