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Friday, August 12, 2022

BAFTA HQ by Benedetti Architects

Following the recent completion of major renovation works at the iconic Grade II listed headquarters of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) in London, BAFTA’s energy performance certification has been upgraded to a B. 

Built in 1883, the prestigious location has served as BAFTA’s headquarters since 1976, and was recently renovated to enhance facilities and double the building’s capacity so it can increase its charitable programme.

Benedetti Architects designed the redevelopment of the building, and BAFTA partnered with glass specialist Eyrise to provide instant solar shading for a newly created fourth floor. 82 liquid crystal windows of varying shapes and sizes were specially produced and installed to glaze two restored Victorian rooflights. Known as the Richard Attenborough Rooms, the floor provides a members’ area and space for exhibitions and events. Despite having increased the glass surface of the building, the upgraded EPC rating is in line with new build standards in the UK.

We caught up with Benedetti Architects to find out more about this intriguing project, including the use of two new innovative and highly sustainable materials.

Image © Eyrise

Where did the conversation with the client begin and what was their brief?

BAFTA had no formal brief but wanted ideas to improve the building’s contribution to their wide charitable remit. In the first two years of work, we helped develop BAFTA’s brief to balance the requirements of members and new talent with commercial necessity (BAFTA is a charity with no government subsidy) with a long-life, loose-fit focus on robust flexibility and adaptive sustainable viability, allowing multiple concurrent uses and significant revenue expansion.

Our completed work doubles the capacity of the building, which goes hand-in-hand with potential revenue expansion, and our design is infused throughout with inventive combinations of areas, volumes, views and sequential movement that allow theatrical ‘reveals’ of spaces for special events particular to BAFTA’s essence and unique character; which in-turn sets them apart from competing hospitality venues to further augment their revenue potential.

BAFTA HQ Members | Image ©RoryMulvey

Tell us about some of the new design features that were unique to this project?

While developing our approach for an ‘invited ideas’ competition in 2014, we discovered forgotten structures and decorative plasterwork (damaged and deteriorating fast) of two huge rooflights from the original 1883 Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours gallery. They were blocked in 1976 when BAFTA moved in and created the Princess Anne Theatre, a screening room.

We won the commission with the strategy of restoring and raising them to create a new fourth floor. This bold heritage approach was necessary because the Princess Anne Theatre had to remain, and raising was the optimal way to return this important remaining heritage to public access. The spectacular additional top floor we created also generated the extra area BAFTA needed to ensure they could sustainably afford to renew their lease and fully redesign their home.

However, a new south-facing, almost fully glazed floor wasn’t ideal for a members and multi-use bar and restaurant area. It required a special smart glazing solution but the systems then on the market were not impressive. Serendipitously, during the two years it took to develop BAFTA’s brief (via numerous options and feasibility studies) and to achieve planning and listed consents, Merck were announcing their new Eyrise liquid crystal glazing system which removes up to 80% of heat gain and glare, necessary for our new top floor to function. Crucially, it uniquely remains clear for user views to the extraordinary St. James’s churchyard tree canopy we wanted to embrace in the new fourth floor’s character.

The newly developed fourth floor Richard Attenborough Rooms featuring the previously hidden Victorian roof lights | Image ©LucaPiffaretti

Can you talk about the use of materials throughout?

We have used classic timeless materials like travertine, terrazzo, oak, bronze and grass, which are related to the St. James’s area and the golden age of cinema from the 1920s to the 1940s. For instance taking inspiration from the extensive travertine of nearby Piccadilly Station which opened in the 1920s.

We specified two new innovative highly sustainable materials for their first use in the UK. The first material is Merck’s revolutionary Eyrise s350 Licrivision liquid crystal ‘smart’ insulated glazing system enclosing the historic listed rooflights that we found, restored and repositioned 3 metres higher to create the new top floor. The Eyrise panels react individually to different sunlight conditions to remove up to 80% of the harmful UV rays, heat gain and glare, while crucially remaining clear for users of the space, ensuring spectacular views of St. James’s Church and the magnificent churchyard London Plane trees which tower above the new top floor, making it feel like it’s in the canopy of the trees.

The second material is Wearpure.Tech, a revolutionary new material that cleans the air by mineralizing primary greenhouse gases carbon dioxide & nitrogen oxides (CO2/NOx) and reducing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) Showcasing this 100% natural mineral compound, we designed the Learning & New Talent bar-screen with an organic 3D-printed form, maximising surface area and resembling fabric, which reduces CO2/NOx/VOCs equivalent to a young tree. This highlights BAFTA’s commitment to sustainability and  technological innovation for their younger/new-talent/games audience.

Image © Eyrise

What was the most challenging part about this project?

The building has a very handsome façade on Piccadilly, but there was almost no original historic fabric left internally because it had been chopped and changed over 140 years. Therefore we really focused on the few historic elements that remained, which we enhanced and augmented to ensure these features played a significant role in the new atmosphere and character of the design for new users and as an important continuity for BAFTA members who are so fond of the building. This is most evident in the creation of the new top floor by finding those two enormous historic rooflights’ structure & decorative plasterwork (which were thought lost), and restoring and raising them 3m to create the new members area.

www.benedettiarchitects.com | IG: @benedettiarchitects



Rebekah Killigrew
Rebekah Killigrewhttp://www.rebekahkilligrew.com
Editor | ww.architecturemagazine.co.uk | www.interiordesigner.co.uk

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