London | Alexandra Palace regeneration by FCB

Place: London, Country: United Kingdom
Client: Alexandra Palace
Architect: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Text by Riccardo Bianchini, Inexhibit
Images courtesy of FCB Studios
For additional credits, see captions

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Alexandra Palace cross-section, courtesy FCB Studios

London | Alexandra Palace and BBC studios regeneration by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
by Riccardo Bianchini, Inexhibit

Alexandra Palace is a place all Londoners well know. Popularly nicknamed “Ally Pally”, the palace was created in 1873 as a cultural and leisure venue at Alexandra Park in north London, counter-posed to the Crystal Palace in the south.

The structure was created to provide a wide offer of performances, education and entertainment events to the people of London. It accommodated a grand hall, a 3,000-seat theater, exhibition spaces, a library and a covered ice rink; outdoor facilities included a horse racecourse, a swimming pool and various playgrounds.

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Top: Historical print of the palace shortly after completion in 1873; bottom: the Alexandra Palace today, photo by Russ London

Furthermore, the history of Alexandra Palace is deeply connected to that of television. Indeed, in 1935 a part of the building was leased to the BBC and an imposing antenna mast 215-foot high was constructed. The following year, the world’s first “high-definition” (405-line) television program was transmitted from the palace, opening a new era in video broadcasting. Alexandra Park BBC studios remained operational for 45 years until 1981, apart from during WW2 when they were used for secret operations aimed to spoil radio signals to and from German bombers flying over the UK.

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Cutaway of BBC studios at Alexandra Palace, originally published on the October 1936 edition of Television & Short Wave World

Today, the Victorian palace is still in use for concerts and special events, and its ice rink is still a popular attraction; nevertheless, its east wing is almost abandoned and the former television studios are in a derelict state.
Along with the TV facility, the wing includes the 19th century theater with its foyer and backstage spaces, and the East Court, a large glazed atrium once used as an imposing exhibition space.

Now, a £28 million project for regenerating the eastern part of the building is ongoing, also thanks to a £18.8 million grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The British firm Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios have developed the renovation design.

The redevelopment scheme devises both the restoration of the old structures and the introduction of new contemporary elements and content.

The Victorian Theater will be completely renovated as a state-of-the-art 1,300-seat venue for theatrical performances, live music, and film screenings.

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From top to bottom: the Victorian Theater today; proposed theater: new foyer; traditional proscenium stage and traverse stage layouts, courtesy of FCB Studios

The BBC studios will become a museum, focusing on both history and future of television.
By presenting original equipment, audiovisuals, photographs and historical documents, the permanent exhibition in the renovated studios will depict the technical and creative process of making TV, and will explore the role of television as a means of communication, an entertainment and information media, and a an archive of collective memory. The visitors will reach the BBC studio rooms, located at the first level of the east-southern part of the building, by a large “red-carpeted” stairway that periodically doubles as a small auditorium.

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From top to bottom: the BBC Studios entrance (cutaway and rendered image) and an installation view of the permanent exhibition; courtesy of FCB Studios

The East Court will be transformed into a fascinating entrance and orientation space interconnecting the theater, the BBC studios gallery, and the ice rink; furthermore, it will be used as a multifunctional space for special events, exhibitions and to accommodate a themed cafe and restaurant.

The regeneration of the Alexandra Palace east wing is scheduled for completion in 2017.

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from top to bottom: rendered image of the new East Court; bird’s eye schematic view, scale model and rendered view of the refurbished mast; images courtesy of FCB Studios

copyright Inexhibit 2020 - ISSN: 2283-5474