Set on the seventh and eight floors of the iconic BBC Television Centre landmark building, Coffey Architects and interior designer Suzy Hoodless joined forces to complete this incredible two-bedroom duplex apartment, resulting in a fantastic addition to AHMM’s Architects’ Series that features other notable names such as Waldo Works, Fran Hickman and Cassina. Derived from the unique qualities of the existing architecture of the TVC Helios building, the apartment has been designed to highlight the subtle curves of the walls and corresponding radial brass trims inset in the wonderful terrazzo floor. Cleverly arranged, perforated screens filter sunlight to create active shadows that enliven the interiors with brushed brass accents. Presenting architectural brilliance within each pocket and forming part of the reinvented British Broadcasting Corporation TVC development, we sat down with Director of Coffey Architects Phil Coffey to find out about the process behind designing the apartment, how space and light was utilised within, and what the future entails for the practice.
How did you initially approach designing the duplex apartment within the BBC Television Centre? How did the legacy of the building inspire and influence you?
Our projects are often driven by an interest in light and the transformative qualities it can have on a space. The Helios statue, the Greek god of the sun, in the centre of the original TVC courtyard is fitting in that our design process was informed by considering the experience of spaces as daylight affects them during the day. We were also keen to imprint the unique curvature of the original building throughout our apartment as a way to weave the original design and our proposal together.
‘The concentric layout works with the abundant light that this penthouse enjoys to create a rich fusion of material and shadow that sits well within the original shape of the building. A modern baroque. Rich and luxurious.’
How did you utilise the space and curved layout you were given to work with?
It was clear to us that the living, cooking and dining spaces should enjoy plenty of daylight and the views that the top floor of the building benefits from, thus leaving the private sleeping accommodation on the lower level. As you enter the apartment the daylight washing down the staircase creates a glow and invites you to ascend into the openness of the spaces above.
The curved plan is a unique characteristic of the original building an in our view should be celebrated – it provides an opportunity to track the sun as it moves through the day. The transition in daylight colour over time means the appearance and experience of a space is perpetually changing.
‘The flow of the penthouse works with the original building. The curve both experientially and visually allows the spaces to flow into one another whilst also ensuring their independence. The curved screen percolated shadows that track across the space during the day add a rich visual texture that is demurely luxurious.’
How would you define the space in three words?
Bright, Craft, Luxury.
What features are you most drawn to in the apartment?
Our interest in light sees us pursue the possible ways it can be used to affect a space. While the upper floor consisting of living, kitchen and dining is all open plan it has been configured in a way that enables each space to have its own suggested threshold which allows them to feel contained in their own right. This also means throughout the day each space will have its own quality of light based on its position in plan and the light penetrating through the large glazed external walls.
‘I really enjoy the brass screens that are located at the entry to rooms to affect the light, casting complex shadows on the high quality finishes. The light brings the materials together, makes you look and observe and makes the space feel fresh and bright. ‘
Tell us more about that truly exceptional kitchen.
The kitchen is a Molteni&C and Dada Hi Line kitchen installed by Ergonom, who specialise in high specification furniture and fittings. The island unit, worktops and splashback are wrapped in calacatta creama marble selected specifically from a quarry near Verona and meticulously detailed into the design, which utilises integrated Miele appliances throughout. A large pivot door connects the kitchen to a generous utility room full of natural light, while at the other end the kitchen joinery blends seamlessly with the integrated fireplace.
What was the inspiration behind implementing the brass perforated screen filter?
The perforated brass screen acts as a device for filtering and dappling the light in the kitchen space. Depending on the time of day and year the effect of light falling on the surfaces will evolve significantly. The materials we have chosen are beautiful in their own right, but they are made considerably more beautiful when natural light falls on them.
How did you decide on using the curated selection of materials that you did?
The materials we select for our projects are most often informed by the atmosphere we are looking to create in a space. At TVC, beyond selecting a luxurious palette of materials, it was clear to us that what was needed from them was a timeless quality and a calmness that would allow daylight and all its transient colours to be the most important material in our design.
‘The materials were chosen for their quality, tone and presence. Different materials have a different presence due to their opacity, factor of reflectivity and colour, merged with shadow. If decisions are made conscientiously about the materials in their place then a wonderful palette of materials can be found. A material does not necessarily need to be expensive to look good, it is how they are orchestrated, jointed and how they respond to the light that passes over them.’
What future projects of Coffey Architects can you tell us about?
We are working on a couple of family homes, both in coastal areas that are currently under construction. We are also nearing completion of an office building in Kings Cross as part of the transformative regeneration the area has seen in recent years. We are also designing a new cultural building for the London Irish Centre in Camden and undertaking much larger housing schemes across the UK. While the scale and function of these varies they are all tied by a thread of working with light.
‘Coffey Architects work at all scales, we enjoy crafting buildings that are conceived in light, I would hope all of our work conveys this from the smallest house to our largest masterplan.’
Television Centre is now for sale.