The original Richard Rogers-designed building from the Nineties is still going strong, and ID:SR went in to bring the interiors up to date and reflect the new and wider nature of C4
Client: Channel Four Television Corporation
Size: 12,000 sq m
Completion time: 3 years
Designing offices for television channels is becoming a speciality for ID:SR, the interior design arm of architecture practice Sheppard Robson. After making waves last year with its innovative and colourful schemes for the BBC's new Northern HQ at MediaCityUK in Salford, and a project for ITV, which also has offices at MediaCityUK, ID:SR's latest completed project - a interior revamp of Channel 4's HQ in Horseferry Road, London - caps a hat-trick of projects for the UK's biggest terrestrial TV channels.
For the Channel 4 project, the 1994 Richard Rogers-designed building, with its dramatic concaved glass facade and exterior lifts encased in brushed aluminium has stood the test of time; but the interior layout was out of step with the way Channel 4 works, and the decor did little to evoke the channel's vibrant image. Space was also an issue: the number of people working there was to increase by 50 per cent, yet there were areas of the building that were not being used.
The four-storey building comprises two fingershaped wings, each with three floors of office space, and a central 'knuckle' containing the public areas, including reception and a staff restaurant at ground level and, below ground, a screening room and a large central studio.
The studio became redundant in 2009 when Channel 4 began outsourcing its transmission, so ID:SR decided to reappropriate the space, slotting in a new mezzanine floor to house a complex of meeting rooms. To bring natural light into this subterranean space, ID:SR removed panels in the walls near the entrance to create new windows.
'Aside from the shift workers who used the edit suites no one had worked in the space below ground,' says one of the lead designers on the project, Sarah Bryan, 'so the idea of making office space in the lower ground floor was, I think, a bit daunting. But there was a double-height space so it has the highest ceilings and now it has plenty of natural light too, so it has been well received.'
The designers also reconfigured the building's main open-plan work areas, creating a line of 'meeting pods' that runs along the centre of each floor, with desks arranged around the perimeter. Each of these is made up of several individual meeting rooms, but walls are removable so it's possible to create larger rooms. Each room can be enclosed, semi-enclosed (with a clear partition) or fully open to the main office. The pods are colour coded to match the various TV channels in the Channel 4 family - E4, Film4, More4, 4OD and 4 Music - and include artwork from onscreen content.
The client asked ID:SR to take a different approach to designing the interiors of the four meeting rooms, stacked on top of one another to the left of the building's entrance.
'The main thing about the stacked meeting rooms was that [the client] didn't want any more branding in them because they already had lots of branding in the other meeting rooms,' says Bryan. 'The brief was that they had to represent Channel 4 but couldn't say Channel 4.'
Instead, ID:SR assigned each room a theme relating to the Channel 4 brand - 'diversity', 'serious fun', 'innovation' and 'gritty' - and designed each one accordingly. 'Diversity', for example, is a comfortable lounge with a diverse range of fabrics and patterns, while the 'innovation' room is very white and crisp with a sketch of a man with a TV for a head on one wall. The screening room in the lower-ground floor has been updated, and the space immediately outside it - a metal drum clad in acoustic panels, which acts as a foyer - has been given a makeover with back-lit wall panels, soft seating and chain-link curtains.
According to Andrew German, a partner at ID:SR, the success of this project lies in the way it embraces the ethos of Channel 4, rather than just putting Channel 4 staff into a corporate building. 'I think it's given the building a new lease of life,' he says. 'After all, you wouldn't want a building like this to become redundant just because you couldn't reconfigure the inside.'
Julie Kortens, Channel 4's head of corporate services agrees, saying ID:SR's scheme 'has enabled us to make more effective use of our building and future proof our activities, while at the same time respecting and working with the original building architecture'.