Thursday 05 Jan 2012


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BBC North is one of the most ambitious projects in the BBC's history.

Having leased three buildings at MediaCityUK from Peel Media, the BBC began to plan the move of 2,300 staff across 37 departments to the site. They commissioned ID:SR to design a new home for the corporation that would support the incredible creativity of its people and the content they create.

Activity-driven design
Applying their activity-driven design approach, ID:SR worked with the BBC to create a design solution that would allow them to work more effectively and creatively in less, more efficient space. Over a period of seven months they undertook an intensive and energised programme of user engagement. Findings from workshops and feedback sessions, together with empirical analysis of the BBC's current space and work patterns informed the vision for the new BBC North workplace.

Kit of parts
As the BBC was leasing its new buildings from a developer, the fit-out needed to be sculpted between the Cat A. ID:SR's solution was a flexible ‘kit of parts', a series of related joinery items which would sit within the base build structure creating a variety of semi-enclosed spaces. Minimal impact to the sub structure of the buildings meant that this approach was not only flexible and cost-effective, but also offered a sustainable and future-proof solution. Designed with ‘velcro and wheels' flexibility these spaces are easy to reconfigure, allowing people to ebb and flow and also allowing work patterns to evolve alongside advances in digital technologies.

Currently (December 2011), the BBC is just over half way through a 36-week migration. By April 2012, 2,300 people will work for the BBC at MediaCityUK with an additional 1,000 posts scheduled to join them on site by the end of 2017 - an increase which will be effected without alteration to ID:SR's original design.

Local sourcing
From the outset of the project, the BBC was committed to supporting local skills and local manufacturers; this included launching a Student Design Challenge to design fabric and a piece of furniture for the scheme. With up to 73% of products and materials manufactured in the UK, ID:SR and the project team took full advantage of the wide range of talent and skill offered by UK manufacturers and designers.

More choice, less space
Taking the lead from the vibrancy of shared spaces and amenities found in cities, BBC North has been designed to capture this vibrancy, offering more choice in less space. Amenity-centric rather than desk-centric, the workplace supports agile working across a variety of desirable work settings tailored to a range of activities, whether holding a team meeting, making a phone call, editing content, having an informal catch up, tweeting or blogging. It even doubles as a studio space, providing the backdrop to a variety of broadcasts. Reducing traditional formal and hot and heavy spaces with places that recall kitchens, living rooms and cafes, ID:SR created a workplace which exploits the opportunities offered by digital media technologies.

Each of the three buildings has a slightly different look and feel with the basic type of form, material and finish the same. The digital and the domestic carry through the colour palettes, fabrics and carpets: test card colours including magenta, lime green, purple and black are modulated by summer and autumnal colours such as the heather, purple and fresh green colours woven through traditional Welsh woven Melin Tregwynt fabric. Carpet was key to the design, conceived as a ‘digital tapestry' that not only expresses the digital age but also helps to define areas and assists with wayfinding within the open plan working environments. Coloured lighting also assists in wayfinding, identifying shared amenities across the floors.

A place to provoke smiles
The ‘meeting pods' that line the atrium of one of the three buildings at MediaCityUK in Salford have created an iconic image for BBC North. Transforming dead space at the edge of atrium, too narrow for desks or rooms, these visually striking pods, referencing digital pixels in form and colour, have created both focus spaces and intimate collaboration opportunities within the most public of places, connecting all to a marvellous view with the open atrium. These are spaces designed for people which also meet ID:SR's brief from the BBC: to provoke a smile!

Project Team
Interior Designer ID:SR
Project Manager Capita Symonds
Quantity Surveyor Cyril Sweett
M&E and Structural Engineer AECOM
Main Contractor Overbury



ID:SR / Sheppard Robson

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