Audiences at the heart of new BBC Cymru Wales home in the centre of Cardiff

BBC Cymru Wales has begun to move into its new 280,000 sq ft (gross internal area) broadcast centre in the heart of Cardiff, relocating around 1,000 production and support staff from its former facility in Llandaff, which was in need of modernisation. The new headquarters, and the diverse range of spaces within, has been designed to shape the broadcaster’s future, supporting major investment in Welsh broadcasting whilst acting as a magnet for the best creative talent.

Helen Berresford, Head of ID:SR Sheppard Robson, said:

“The success of the broadcast centre in Cardiff grew from a creative partnership between the BBC Workplace team and ID:SR.

“This journey started by evaluating the Llandaff property, and after an informed decision was made to move, it continued with us collaborating on the brief and building selection. Only then could the remarkable spaces you see today start to take shape, with the building—and its extraordinary technical ‘hot and heavy’ demands—being designed from the inside out.”

Making a 21st Century digital broadcasting environment hinged on a series of complex and technically demanding spaces, as well as progressive workplace strategies. The scope and ambition of the project necessitated an internal masterplan for the facility, which was then housed in a distinctive piece of modern architecture, designed by Foster + Partners.

The workplace masterplan by ID:SR and BBC Workplace included giving the headquarters a civic presence, with the public welcomed into the ground floor where they can observe content being created first-hand from a ‘street’ that runs through the building. The colour ‘pixel’ blocks that are visible from the atrium animate this central space further whilst expressing the digital culture of the organisation. These colourful elements lead the eye up through the bustling floors, with the exposed services visible and illustrating how the design knits together high-performance infrastructure and locally-crafted materials.

Alan Bainbridge, Director of Workplace at the BBC said:

“The project successfully balances pragmatism and efficiency with a drive to create a very special broadcasting facility and a world class workplace for BBC Wales. The regeneration of a pivotal site in the heart of Cardiff is the setting for this transformational project. It forges close connections between broadcasting and the public, sets new standards for innovative flexible and cost-effective workplaces, and creates a new home for the BBC that is built specifically for the digital world.

“The themes and issues that the project embraces—from neurodiversity and inclusivity, to agility and efficiency—have been conceived to raise the benchmark not just for the BBC, but also across the property industry. We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved, with the quality of the spaces and places we have delivered. This was achieved as a direct result of a collaborative spirit and pursuit of excellence by the developer, client, professional teams and contractors which defined this project.”

BBC Cymru Wales Director Rhodri Talfan Davies said:

“Central Square is all about opening up. Broadcasting and media are changing before our eyes. And our audiences these days expect to ‘get up close and personal’. We’ve designed this building to let the light in – not seal it off – and the fantastic location means that we’ll be more accessible to just about everybody”.

The building is divided into functional zones, with the main entrance on the south side, facing the Cardiff Central Railway Station. Along the east side of the building is the central support space, with desks arranged in prime locations along the perimeter of the building or the edge of the atrium. Between the two desk zones, a support spine offers a range of resources and alternative work settings that support all styles of working.

The west side of the building is the main content production space, with studios housed in the hub. A portion of studios are in highly-controlled spaces along the northern perimeter, while other more informal spaces line the side of the atrium, including the prominent curved corner overlooking the atrium.

Functional zones are interconnected by a series of staircases, with meeting rooms and shared facilities arranged to draw different teams together. On the top floor, event spaces, training areas, a canteen and outdoor terrace, encourage interaction.

The project was approached as an opportunity to bring BBC Wales as close as possible to its audiences while making a significant architectural and civic statement. This was embodied by the way the project engaged with the local community—including a design competition in which local students designed fabrics and furniture for the project, with some of the winners’ work incorporated into the final design.

The project teams worked alongside numerous local suppliers, local labour and craftspeople (70% of the suppliers for the construction phase were located within 50 miles of the building) and used local products (85% of the total spend on aspects such as furniture, loose fixtures and fittings has been spent within the UK). This helped reduce carbon emissions, stimulate the local economy and root the building within its community.

The project also promoted new perspectives on wellness and inclusivity, incorporating considerations around neurodiversity into the design decisions—including lighting, colour, patterns, and routes through the building. With the use of professional expertise, the design approach looked to broaden the definition of inclusivity in the workplace, allowing a greater range of people to do their best work whilst also creating vibrant spaces for all.

The interior fit out was completed by Overbury, the UK’s leading fit out and refurbishment specialist. The firm has worked with BBC on its workplaces across the UK for more than 20 years and was chosen by BBC Workplace to deliver the ID:SR design through a competitive tender process.

Overbury Managing Director, Chris Booth, said:

“We’re proud to have delivered such a forward-looking space. Working closely with ID:SR and BBC Workplace, our project team were able to deliver a functional workplace, state-of-the-art broadcast facility and a public space the people of Wales can be very proud of.

“Our experience with office and broadcast fit out enhanced our teams’ ability to deliver the project, work flexibly with changes, and hand over the keys on time and on budget.

“A project of this size and complexity would not have been possible without collaborating with the talented project teams from BBC Workplace, ID:SR, AECOM as well as our specialist suppliers and subcontractors.”

The first phase of the fit out handed over to BBC Workplace in January 2019. From there, phase two works continued to fine tune broadcast studios, accessible spaces, M&E, and installation of additional workplace aspects as needed.

A key part of the fit out was reducing the impact it would have on the environment. Efforts by Overbury and its suppliers and subcontractors meant the fit out helped achieve a BREEAM Outstanding rating making BBC’s Central Square highest BREEAM post-construction rated media sector office building in Wales to date. 95% of all waste from the fit out was recycled and 100% of cardboard, metal, insulation, plasterboard, wood and plastics used in the fit out were diverted from landfill. ID:SR and Overbury worked together to select low VOC finishes, to ensure air quality of labourers and future occupants was maximised, adding to the high BREEAM rating awarded to the project.