New BBC Studios at Maida Vale 

7 June 2024 tbs.pm/80583

 

Cover of World-Radio

From World-Radio, dated 25 October 1935

Readers of World-Radio will be well aware that the large orchestral studio at Maida Vale, in West London, which has been in use for the past year, is contained in a very large building which a few years ago was a skating rink. The No. 1 studio, large though it is, takes up only a portion of the main building, and during the past few months four new studios have been built in the remaining space.

There are some interesting points in connexion with these studios. In the first place, each studio forms an entirely separate structure within the main building, and there is no structural connexion between the studios. The main structure of each studio is of heavy brickwork, the walls extending from the clay foundations to the roof of the main building, the steel trusses of which overarch the studios. The ceilings of the studios are supported by steel joists, but this forms the only steel-work in the structure.

In building these new studios, the opportunity has been taken to make some experiments in studio design. The two larger studios — Nos. 2 and 3 — are of similar size and shape, the dimensions being 70 ft. long by 43 ft. 6 in. wide, and the cubic capacity 60,000 cu. ft. No. 3 studio has flat walls and ceiling and is treated with acoustic building board. No. 2, on the other hand, is of quite different construction internally. The surfaces of the walls and ceiling are of zig-zag formation with the zig-zag faces increasing in width from the centre point of each wall to the ends, and similarly from the centre of the ceiling. The walls are lined with acoustic building board of the usual buff colour and, although the studio has been given no actual decorative treatment, the irregular surfaces produce an attractive effect. What is more important, however, is the acoustic character of the studio, and it is an interesting fact that the sound character of this irregularly shaped studio differs considerably from that of the other studio of the same size with flat surfaces. This, of course, is due to the breaking-up of sound waves by the irregular surfaces. These two studios are intended to be used mainly for fairly large orchestras, military bands, etc.

The two smaller studios, Nos. 4 and 5, are intended for dance bands and smaller musical combinations. The average dimensions of these studios are 45 ft. by 28 ft. by 20 ft. high. Their cubic capacities are similar but, while No. 5 is rectangular, none of the walls of No. 4 are parallel — they form an irregularly-shaped quadrilateral. The surfaces of both these studios, however, are flat and are treated in the normal manner with acoustic building board.

It will readily be seen that these two pairs of studios of different characteristics will enable valuable data to be obtained as to the relative advantages of each type for different kinds of musical performances.

The total floor area of the five studios at Maida Vale and their associated listening rooms is over 17,000 sq. ft. The remainder of the building contains a suite of offices, the steel tape and disc recording rooms, artists’ waiting rooms, and a staff restaurant, in addition, of course, to the Control Room and other rooms containing technical equipment.

 

Inside a studio

View of No.2 studio showing special wall construction

 

Lighting

The lighting of Nos. 3, 4, and 5 studios is effected by means of electric lights placed behind glass panels set flush in the flat ceilings. In No. 2 studio, however, this system of lighting could not have been adopted without considerable difficulty, owing to the irregular ceiling. The form of lighting which has been adopted therefore consists of a number of long glass troughs suspended from the ceiling.

Ventilation

As is now standard practice with broadcasting studios, there are, of course, no windows — nor, for that matter, any direct communication with the outside air. Studios are ventilated artificially by means of plants similar to that which supplies the No. 1 Maida Vale studio. In order to prevent sound leakage between the studios or from external sources viâ the air-supply ducts, special sound-deadeners have been installed of the type evolved for Broadcasting House some five years ago, and which have proved extremely effective. The air is, of course, washed before reaching the studios, and the temperature is automatically regulated and maintained. The air inlet to each studio is through slotted ducts placed high up on the end walls, and the extract ducts terminate behind projecting rectangular baffle-plates just below the middle of the walls.

Control Room

The Maida Vale Control Room was, of course, completed before the large No. 1 studio came into use. It provides ample facilities for the handling of programmes from the four new studios and, in addition, for channels between Broadcasting House and the recording rooms.

Power Supply

Electricity is taken from the Metropolitan Electric Supply Company’s mains through a sub-station in the building. The sub-station contains transformer equipment which reduces the 6,600-volt input to 400-volt and 230-volt supplies. The former provides a power supply and the latter is for lighting. There is also a stand-by battery to which about half of the main lighting is automatically connected in the event of a failure of the mains. This supplies sufficient lighting for the continuation of transmissions until the normal supply is restored, when the portion of the lighting still connected to the mains will, of course, come into operation, after which the emergency lighting will automatically be disconnected from the battery and switched back to the A.C. supply. The automatic change-over takes approximately one second, and the stand-by battery is normally kept in a fully-charged condition by the mains supply, through a rectifier.

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