Alexandra Palace. Photograph by Oliver Spalt: http://www.artweise.de/

Haringey Council approves £28m renovation of Alexandra Palace

Patrick Steel, 04.03.2015
Critics oppose changes to the structure
Plans to renovate London's Alexandra Palace, including the restoration of the Victorian facade, have been approved by Haringey Council’s planning committee.

The renovation includes a controversial proposal to open up bricked-in arches on one of the building’s facades, which critics say would destroy the last significant visible evidence of the birthplace of BBC television.

In a submission to the planning committee, the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society wrote: “The proposal to entirely remove the 20th century infilling of the arcades is misplaced, and based on inadequate investigation… to remove those areas would be very damaging to the building’s technological significance.”

The arches were enclosed in the 1930s by the BBC, creating the studios from which the world’s first regular television broadcasts began in 1936.

Under plans submitted by the Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust, the renovation will reopen all 14 of the arches that originally housed Edwardian-era tearooms.

The plans were opposed by the Save Ally Pally Group, which argued for four arches at first-floor level to be retained and made a feature of the building. It compared them to the prefab huts at Bletchley Park, which housed codebreakers during world war two, that surround the Victorian mansion there.

When the arches were enclosed, the ground floor level was turned into a transmitter hall and first floor private dining rooms into studios. Others were converted into dressing rooms.

Save Ally Pally believes the retention of the structure is vital if an application for Unesco status is to be made. “Without the actual bricks and mortar any chance of a world heritage application would be scuppered,” it said.

Alexandra Park and Palace chief executive Duncan Wilson, who announced last month he was leaving in May to become the chief executive of Historic England, originally put the proposals forward.

Wilson said: “We are delighted with the planning committee’s decision, which allows us to move forward with the project and is a major step in the transformation of Alexandra Palace to realise its full potential as the ‘People’s Palace’ once again.”

Comments

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Mark Magidson
Creative Director, Exhibition Plus
05.03.2015, 17:51
I took the time to inspect the exterior elevation concerned and was truly astonished to discover how little of the "Victorian" elements of it are indeed there, with much of the stonework in fact spalling replacement concrete. The fact that the truly historic BBC colonnade infills, built by Higgs & Hill (who built bthe Tate Britain) and to a high standard will be sacrificed to further prop up this deceit should be reconsidered. Bletchley Park almost ended up with the same result with its historic WW2 huts nearly consigned to the skip (research into their preservation is interesting!).

On the ground the scale of this building is huge so that the details of infills destroying "balance" etc are only seen on drawings. On other sites English Heritage supports the notion of preserving historic layers of architecture that tell a story of development - why not here for its most unique BBC story? Save the 1936 face of this building!