The BBC Television Centre, the world’s first purpose-built television production complex – described as the Hollywood of the Television Industry – was officially opened on 29 June 1960.
The opening was marked by a special variety programme called First Night, broadcast from studio TC3, presented by David Nixon and featuring performers including Arthur Askey and Richard Hearne.
The building was conceived in 1949 when the BBC acquired a 13-acre site in White City, West London. Architect Graham Dawbarn designed a ring of studios radiating from a central courtyard, with a service road running around the outside to supply scenery and equipment.
A distinctive circular main block, affectionately known as the ‘doughnut’, housed technical areas and equipment, together with facilities for artists and administrative offices. Grouped around it were the studios, linked by a covered walkway to a scenery block to allow swift movement of scenery.
In 1960 only four studios of the eventual eight were complete. The famous question mark floor plan wasn’t realised until the spur was added in 1966, housing the news centre.
The building was extended further over the years and its gradual development meant it has kept pace with technological developments.
The BBC sold Television Centre in 2012 and the majority is now a hotel and apartment complex. However, BBC Studios, the BBC’s commercial sales and production arm moved into the re-modelled Stage 6 section of the building in 2015.
Studios 1, 2 and 3 have been refurbished and are used by the BBC and other UK broadcasters.
The BBC Television Centre from the air, as it was in April 1960