The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Listing support for Channel 4 HQ amid privatisation controversy

The Channel 4 Headquarters (1992-94) in Westminster: one of Richard Rogers most significant public commissions in the UK.

Image: Rogers, Stirk, Harbour & Partners

As the intention of the Government to press ahead with a privatisation of Channel 4 generates huge controversy and public protest, we can reveal that C20 Society has strongly supported the listing of the broadcaster’s London headquarters, designed by the late Richard Rogers.

The Channel 4 Headquarters (1992-94) at 124 Horseferry Road, Westminster, counts as one of Rogers most significant public commissions in the UK. Following in the tradition of the Lloyds building, its services are externally expressed and the structural elements are to the fore. The entrance and full-height concave glass wall of the atrium are particularly dramatic and ‘televisual’, especially when illuminated at night. This is believed to be the first hanging curved curtain wall in London. Unusually for a network headquarters, it also contains only one studio – for the daily C4 News, with most of the channels output made by independent programme makers.

The dramatic concave suspended glazed wall and tiers of lightweight walkways at each level.

Image: Rogers, Stirk, Harbour & Partners

In an effort to regionally rebalance their culture and output, Channel 4 announced in 2019 it was moving its national headquarters out of London to a new base in Leeds and opening additional creative hubs in Bristol and Glasgow. While the London office was retained for key executives and advertising staff, the decision heightened speculation that their landmark headquarters may be at longer term risk. A subsequent COI request (Certificate of Immunity from listing), prompted by proposals to replace the innovative atrium glazing, was strongly opposed by C20.

Recent press reports have suggested the Westminster headquarters building could among the first assets to be sold in the event of a privatisation, with an estimated value of as much as £100 million.

As with the Lloyds building, the services are externally expressed and structural elements are to the fore.

Image: Rogers, Stirk, Harbour & Partners

It should be noted that the decision of whether or not to list a building ultimately rests with the Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Secretary of State for which (Nadine Dorries MP) has also been central to decisions around the controversial sale of the broadcaster.

The building admirably expresses the perceived identity of the broadcaster, while reflecting civic and contextual values – innovative, socially aware and willing to take risks. We believe the Channel 4 HQ to be worthy of listing at the highest grade and are urging Historic England to conduct a wider review of the built legacy of its Pritzker Prize winning architect, who passed away in December 2021.

C20 Direct Catherine Croft commented:

“The Channel 4 headquarters counts as one of Rogers most significant public commissions in the UK, one that absolutely should be listed. It was purpose built for the broadcaster and reflects the values of a publically owned institution. While the building itself could doubtless suit other occupants, it would be sad to see a landmark building stripped of its purpose and threatened with a quick sale”