Intolerance: New BBC Scotland HQ is 'Ugly Disgrace'?

To some, it is a classic example of 'neo-minimalist' architecture at its finest. To others it is a giant, ugly, glass brick plonked next door to some of the finest modern buildings in Scotland. As arguments over the cost and aesthetics of 'The New Scottish Parliament' continue to rage, another costly public building is polarising opinions. The controversy revolves around the 129_million_GBP 'New BBC Scotland HQ' on the banks of the Clyde in Glasgow, which is the latest development in the city's massive river regeneration scheme. The new building will replace the BBC's current home in Glasgow's West End, where staffers at 'The Corporation' have worked since the 1930s.
The Figge Art Museum
Award-winning architects 'David Chipperfield Architects' won the competition to design the building. The firm's previous work includes the acclaimed 'River and Rowing Museum' in Henley-on-Thames and the new 'Figge Art Museum' in Iowa, USA.
Chipperfield design winner Winning Design for BBC Scotland
But to some eyes, the firm's latest efforts in Glasgow have not matched up to expectations. The building is a brutally simple, predominantly grey, rectangular metal and glass box which rises sheer from the banks of the Clyde.
BBC Scotland On The Banks of The River Clyde
It sits in stark contrast to the adventurous -- and widely admired -- designs of the adjacent 'Science Centre' and 'The SECC's' 'Armadillo' across the river.
Architects in Scotland are now lining up to attack the building, describing it as 'ugly', 'ordinary' and 'boring'.
BBC 2Click to enlarge
Mr.Peter Wilson, director of 'The Manifesto Foundation for Architecture' at 'Napier University', said:
'For most people they will just look at it and say: "Why? Why did we end up with this?" 'It is interesting in so far as showing what "Chipperfield" set out to do, which was to create some sense of transparency. But for anyone other than architects it is underwhelming. 'This a classic example of a particular type of architecture that only certain types of architects appreciate.'
Draft Sketch of New BBC
Another architect who asked not to be named added:
'The specialness of the building is on the inside, we are told. 'Lets hope so; basically, it is a square box. 'Most people think it is very boring.'
Mr.Charlie Sutherland, of Edinburgh-based 'Sutherland and Hussey', said:
'For the headquarters of the BBC, it needs to be something special, not just an ordinary office building. 'I think there is an obligation on a public body to do something special. This has been treated a bit like a private development and that is a bit unfortunate.'
But the architects and the BBC have launched a vigorous defence of their design. The firm said they deliberately chose a 'pragmatic' shape, believing that the dramatic riverside location did not require an extravagant design. They also point out that the simple shape helps to accommodate the warren of recording studios required within the building. Mr.Martin Ebert, the project architect at 'David Chipperfield Architects', said:
'We wanted to make a very simple statement on the river. 'We didn't believe that this location required a very extravagant shape. 'It requires a clear and clean statement that has enough power to sit alongside the other buildings, such as "The Science Centre" and "The Armadillo".' 'Those buildings try to be more expressive with their shape, but we felt that this was not required in this case. 'We believed a big crystalline box was the answer.'
Mr.Ebert said that the firm also envisaged a 'transparent' building which would encourage members of the public to visit it, and added that architects also had the Clyde's shipbuilding past in mind.
'We wanted to make a building that is very simple and pays tribute to the industrial character of the site.'
A spokesman for the BBC said:
'It was about form and function. 'We believe it is a stunning building which will meet the requirements we need as a broadcaster.'
Of the criticism, she added:
'If it is stimulating debate then that is fantastic.'
She also highlighted the internal design of the building which puts the broadcasting studios at its heart -- a factor which has impressed BBC chiefs. Other architects in Scotland also hit back at the criticism, praising the design. Mr.Stuart Macdonald, director of 'The Lighthouse', Scotland's Centre for Architecture, said:
'I think it is a really, really nice building and I think we should have more of them. "David Chipperfield" is one of the best UK architects working currently and I think it is a really elegant and beautifully proportioned building.'
The BBC will not move into the new building until 2007. 'Angry box-watchers attack Auntie's 'eyesore'', Eddie Barnes Political Editor Scotland On Sunday, 2005-08-21
Topping out ceremony at new BBC Scotland Headquarters Landmark building on Glasgow riverfront reaches milestone. The BBC's new Scottish Headquarters has reached a construction milestone, with the completion of the hi-tech building's main structure.
Glorious sunshine and blue skies provided a glittering backdrop for the recent 'topping out' ceremony which was carried out in front of 200 invited guests, and included an enthusiastic speech by BBC Scotland's controller Mr.Ken Macquarrie. The new Headquarters at Pacific Quay is the most significant single project in the history of BBC Scotland.
With the aim of inspiring the public and drawing audiences to its heart, BBC Scotland's architectural brief is to design a dynamic broadcasting HQ fit for the 21st century.
When the 32_500_square metre building is complete and fully occupied in 2007, BBC Scotland aims to have created the benchmark for broadcasters in terms of state of the art technology, production methods, and public access. 'Keppie Design' are employed by 'Bovis Lend Lease' as implementation architects for the delivery of the building, and working in conjunction with the BBC's Executive Architects, David Chipperfield Architects, the design creates a simple open and transparent six storey glass structure.
Internally, a tiered sequence of platforms and terraces created over the central studios appear as a grand staircase within the atrium. Located on the south bank of the River Clyde the new building will provide a focal point for the continued development and regeneration of Glasgow's waterfront area. The masterplan for the whole site provides something unique in the UK –- a specific area of the city where a range of businesses can come together as a vibrant digital media community. -- Keppie Design at The BBC
Links: BBC BBC Scotland New BBC Scotland HQ at Pacific Quay Land Securities Trillium -- Outsourcing by the BBC Balfour Kilpatrick at the BBC Vipond Fire at the BBC Keppie Architects 'SECC' 'SECC Tickets'


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is out of place down there and it stops the science centre and imax from being seen from the kingston bridge. It ruins the look of the area.

9/07/2005 01:10:00 am  
Anonymous Chris Patterson said...

Form and Function???? They HAVE to be joking, right? The IMAX looks the way it does because function won out. You could argue that the SECC main hall is a big box because it has to be a flexible internal box design - so function wins again. The Armadillo was designed to provide excellent acoustics, so again, function won yet again because the shape and look of the building came from there.

The whole area seems to be a collection of buildings linked by the fact that they are function led. The Science Centre doesn't have to be the way it is, so form won out. It was designed to 'fit' in with the rest, as it doesn't have a typical shape. It's purpose does not dictate a building shape, so it could be any shape at all - even a box shape. Howver it was shaped to suit the site.

The BBC is not shaped to suit the site/ other buildings nearby.

The BBC's shape is not dictated by function as far as I can determine - there's nothing about it that cries out "TV and Radio studios". It seems to be more about creating open light spaces. A bit atrium with a stepped interior (for no good reason).

Yes it is a failure in architectural terms. Form and Function? Don't make me laugh!

9/07/2005 01:20:00 am  
Anonymous Tony Murchison said...

Form versus Function can be misleading; every new building has to meet the needs of its client and end-user, so function usually predominates, until that is, the building is expensive, large and important, at which point form takes over, and we get signature buildings, branding, landmark and iconic buildings.

The new BBC Scotland building, it seems to me, falls into the big, expensive category, so one would imagine that the building would be a flagship icon... but it is not.

Does that mean that function has actually predominated? Well, no. With over 30 years as a practicing architect behind me, I would suggest that the building is unsuitable for its purpose.

Indeed, it is in the wrong location, for there is a risk of flooding, the site is contaminated, the is a lot of noise from boats and the river amplifies noise. The main police heliport is nearby too, and I understand that there is to be a new road bridge to increase noisy, vibrating traffic past this building.

Turning to the building itself now, it seems unusual to build for natural light in a television studio where control of lighting is of paramount importance. The extant studios in Queen Margaret Drive has no windows, and this is typical for film and tv studios throughout the world.

The external boundary of this building is glazed, which brings with it the problem of sunshine as well as the greenhouse effect of massive solar gains in summer and massive heating bills in winter.

This is not an energy-efficient and environmentally-conscious building!

All-in-all, I feel we have been let down, and that this design fails in terms of function as well as form. It is unexciting, uninspiring, incongruous, and an insult to the responsible green approach to architecture we all would expect of the BBC and other such public bodies.
T. Murchison

9/08/2005 04:27:00 am  
Blogger Dave said...

Anon said it looks out of place -- but then the whole area is being developed, so maybe when that's done, the new BBC Scotland HQ will fit in.

Chris and Tony took up the BBC spokesman's point about Form and Function -- which is one of those old arguments that is trotted out from time to time to appear clever (a bit like nature/nurture).

The new BBC HQ is not a steel frame construction, but concrete -- just like those cleanrooms we used to build in silicon glen. this dampens vibration. The glazing is not domestic pvc-framed double glazing units with a 3mm gap -- not at all; these are special glazed wall panels that have a massive gap to suit the sound wavelengths while reducing heat transfer.

The outer casing is the glass box (originally two glass boxes with a bridge -- as shown in the sketch), inside are independent buildings -- completely independent -- everything is flexibly connected, fancy dampers, acoustic linings and springs are used throughout. Nothing is allowed past Arup Acoustics Ltd -- everything is screened from a noise and vibration POV before being considered for use in this building.

Function is paramount -- there are docking bays for outside broadcast vans, access for scenery and props, public access, and all sorts of clever things have been incorporated -- even a roof-top food court! Helicopters can land on the roof, and the building enjoys unobstructed access to satellites, and the airwaves in general. Without neighbouring buildings, signal strength is optimised with this riverfront location.

The backdrop for the television news will be those extraordinary riverside buildings -- what could be better?

Indeed the building will breathe some life back into the former Garden Festival locale -- the park is fading, the Science Centre and Imax are not the hits they were predicted to be, even the Moat House is rather shabby now.

There are new hotels and new concert venues handy for these studios and offices, which is a big plus for visiting superstars!

The building is not just about television, but about radio, digital tv satellite tv, digital radio and Internet services too. In addition to broadcasting, there are recordings, archiving, researching, call-centre, mail management, reception, make-up, offices and all sorts of other functions.

These myriad functions seem to have been overlooked. This is a flexible building -- and indeed the design was FLEXIBLE, for it was only in may this year that the design and room layouts were finalised!

Of course it won't be perfect (whatever is?), but a box is the best way to go when flexible growth is on the menu.

Having said all that, and defended the designers so staunchly, everything does come down to time and money -- which is a great shame.

This building is not designed to last as long as Queen margaret Drive. Costs have to be part of the design too.

Sadly, we will not have any frills.

Unlike the Europeans, we do not feel any obligation to make anything attractive, unusual, beautiful, remarkable, sexy or inspirational. No Bella Figura for us I'm afraid.

So, yes it is pretty ugly -- but then again, so is the Science Centre!

9/08/2005 01:06:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the end of the day it is ugly. It brings down the area by spoiling the view of the science centre from upriver. This box spoils the futuristic look of the science centre and imax so favoured recently for fashion shoots as our own wee Guggenheim. It is an ugly view from the science centre and from the moat house hotel too. Ugly Ugly Ugly!

9/28/2005 12:27:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rather than being a special design considering form and function, it looks like typical Chipperfield to me. Every Chipperfield building is a big glass box, so when you say "Chipperfield" you can more or less guess what it will look like. NO SURPRISE HERE!

11/20/2005 12:25:00 pm  

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