The Twentieth Century Society is backing calls to list Broadcasting House, the BBC’s Welsh HQ in Llandaff, Cardiff.
This suite of historic 1960s TV and radio buildings, designed by renowned Welsh architect Dale Owen, is under threat from re-development plans following the BBC’s announcement last year that the site is up for sale.
Broadcasting House has been the headquarters of BBC Wales Cymru since 1967. The complex was designed by Dale Owen at the prestigious architectural firm Percy Thomas Partnership.
Henrietta Billings, Senior Conservation Adviser at the Twentieth Century Society said: “The BBC building is one of Wales’ most outstanding and important Modernist buildings, and one of the best remaining examples of this highly significant Welsh architectural practice.”
“We believe this iconic set of buildings should be listed and celebrated as a key part of Wales’s cultural and architectural heritage. We would like to see them retained and converted – not demolished – as part of any new use for the site,” added Billings.
The BBC’s 1950s former Television Centre in west London is an example of how the retention and conversion of such landmark buildings can work. Television Centre, listed grade II in 2009, was sold recently sold to a developer for conversion to housing, hotel, office and studio space for the BBC. The Twentieth Century Society was consulted by the architects on the details of the plans.
Professor Judi Loach, architectural historian at the University of Cardiff said “This is the outstanding Modernist building of the post war era in Cardiff and indeed one of the very few in Wales that can stand comparison with first rate architecture abroad.”
“This is the most significant twentieth century building to be threatened in Wales since the loss of the grade II * listed rubber factory in Brynmawr, south Wales built 1946-51, demolished in 2001”, added Loach.
Dale Owen (1924 – 1997) who worked in the US with Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus, is widely recognised as one of Wales’ most important Modernist architects. Other major public building designed by him include the National Museum of Wales at St Fagan’s (1968-81) – grade II listed and his award winning Arts Centre at Aberystwyth (1970-72).
The different functions of Broadcasting House are articulated through their form: the long row rise canteen floats on stilts above the car park adjacent to the taller building which contains the offices and administration facilities. Next door the smaller studios extend along the roadside, and finally the more spacious volume of Studio 1 completes the sequence of the main street elevation. All these elements are held together with a limited palette of materials – concrete, carefully proportioned glazing and stone.
The largest of the radio studios was designed to accommodate the BBC Symphony Orchestra of Wales, whilst TV Studio One is around 6,500 sq ft. with spacious production galleries.
Cadw, the Welsh Government’s heritage advisers, are assessing the application. A recommendation on the listing, which will ultimately be decided by the Secretary of State, is due in March 2014.
For more information and images, please contact Henrietta Billings: E: Henrietta@c20society.org.uk or T: 020 7250 3857