The newest outpost from Soho House transforms part of the iconic White City BBC building into a modern member’s club with a midcentury vibe, hints of Mad Men and a touch of the Palm Springs about it
All photography © Soho House
From 1960 right up until 2013, the Television Centre in White City was home to some of the BBC’s most iconic programmes, from Doctor Who to Fawlty Towers.
But since 2013, the building and its surroundings have been undergoing a major renovation as new homes, restaurants and offices have all moved in, including Soho House’s latest venture.
Called White City House, the member’s club offers an on-site gym, 45 hotel rooms, a rooftop pool, as well as two restaurants. For Soho House’s Design Director Linda Boronkay it was a great opportunity to have some fun with the design, as well as hark back to its incredible heritage.
‘We tried to inject some subtle references that created a strong sense of place, and we wanted to be really respectful and relevant to the Television Centre,’ Boronkay tells me.
‘This was our baseline that we kept coming back to, but we also wanted to create a series of experiences. So you walk into the first floor, you have one sort of experience and then you walk up to the club and have a different sort of experience.’
White City House spans both the Grade II-listed BBC Helios building and newly built sections. The gym, reception and hotel rooms are part of the Helios Building, which Boronkay says yielded an interesting circular layout as well as some wonderful existing timber panelling.
‘We were taking inspiration from those elements,’ she explains. ‘We wanted to recreate that, but in a more contemporary way, applying our own colour scheme.’
We were looking at iconic BBC programmes like Blue Peter and Doctor Who – the club elevator is like the TARDIS from Doctor Who
To balance this, Boronkay opted for a midcentury look for the newer part of the building: ‘We looked at a lot of midcentury movies and midcentury architects.
‘We were looking at iconic BBC programmes like Blue Peter and Doctor Who – the club elevator is like the TARDIS from Doctor Who. So we really tried to implement small references to the iconic surroundings, but we didn’t want to be too literal.’
There were moments of serendipity that helped this along, such as discovering that Tibor, which they collaborated with on some of their textiles, had designed the original textiles for the BBC back in the 1960s.
Boronkay was also clear that, first and foremost, the club needed to be practical and comfortable for its members, who would be using it from the early morning until late evening. The team achieved this in areas like the member’s bar and the ground floor public restaurant, The Allis, through soft furnishings, loved old books on display and keeping everything well lit.
This dedication and diligence of design also led to one of the club’s most iconic features – the magnificent swimming pool on the roof, which brings a little bit of California to London.
We wanted to create a still oasis on top of the building. There’s a little bit of escapism, a little bit of Palm Springs, a little bit of Mad Men
‘We wanted to create a still oasis on top of the building where you have a lot of greenery, you have a lot of colourful fabrics, there’s a little bit of escapism, a little bit of Palm Springs, a little bit of Mad Men,’ Boronkay smiles. ‘We just wanted to have a lot of fun with it, really.’
The project didn’t come without its challenges, with the team deciding to go more bespoke on the design, meaning more prototypes, more factory visits and more time, but for Boronkay, it was all worth it in the end.
‘This project overall was amazing,’ she beams. ‘We put so much time into making this space really unique and I think that whole process was something that I don’t think we’ve done ever before.’
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