Bush House in London’s Aldwych would appear to be as British as the BBC it was home to for 70 years. The World Service in particular. “The world’s radio station” broadcast in more that 40 languages with the refrain ‘from Bush House’. Surely Bush was akin to Reith; someone at the BBC? Well no. In fact Bush House was originally commissioned as an international trade centre by New York businessman Irving T Bush. Completed in 1935, designed by American architects Helmle & Corbett, it was an American style ‘big business classicism’ building in the middle of London said to be the most expensive building in the world.
The BBC moved out in 2012 and Kings College London moved in.
The building is arranged as 4 wings: North, South, East, West. When Kings moved in the wings were opened in stages.
Bush House is Grade 2 listed so the signs to help students and staff navigate the new space had to be self-supporting requiring no fixings into the fabric of the building.
As we often do, we looked to the building itself for inspiration. It’s American architecture of The Jazz Age. We went back to America and in particular to Charles and Ray Eames and their “House of Cards” as the design reference point. The cards are rectangular with 6 notches in the sides allowing them to be assembled – or built like a house – in many ways. We went for stacked totems positioned in the grand core at the centre of the wings.
The interior is cool, polished limestone – the modern misunderstanding of the classical aesthetic. Our totems reinstate the colour classical buildings would have had. The totems stand out. When staff, visitors and students enter the central core they see signs on the totem directing to the North and South facing classrooms and lecture theatres.
When they leave they see images of past students of Kings. People who made great contributions in their fields of study and in the wider world. Kings liked this approach so much they asked us to use it across the whole of their London campus.