Just in from our London correspondent—the Gensler-designed Corinthian Television headquarters is ready for action
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 3/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
"What's on tonight?" A question oft heard in today's TV-centric age. "How do we capture the most viewers?" A question perennially posed by media executives around the world.
Audience interest and its corollary, employee interest, were central to Corinthian Television in discussing its future London headquarters with Gensler's local team. "We can't be off-air for more than one minute per week. And that means we need happy people," says CEO and founder Mike Silverman. In other words, how could Corinthian, which broadcasts predominantly children's programming, entice creative city types out to suburban Chiswick Park, where the company had secured 85,000 square feet of space?
A steel-and-glass building, one of six in a high-class office park by Richard Rogers, was no guarantee. To keep the 150-count staff in high spirits, Silverman says, he mandated a "bright, sexy, and innovative environment. Hip is it." Gensler principal and design director Edmund Caddy III 'and senior associate Allyn Dorey, project designer, began by identifying the chief components of the $40 million project.
The four-story building's first two levels would house directors' suites, wardrobe and makeup areas, green rooms, editing rooms, a screening center, and transmission suites as well as meeting and breakout rooms. Open and private offices occupy the top floor. (The third is vacant.) At the rear, the architects added two double-height studios, 2,800 square feet apiece.
The Gensler team then balanced requirements for efficiency and interactivity with interiors snappy enough to double as sets. The vocabulary embodies light, glass, and free-floating elliptical forms to break up the 20,000-square-foot "brutally square floor plates," Caddy says. Informal work options mixed with formal glass meeting enclosures create a flexible landscape.
"Our major innovation was in the editing and transmission environments," he adds. Unlike the typical dark, soundproof box, Corinthian's seven editing rooms are futuristic drywall booths with generous curved windows. Blackout draperies provide total darkness when necessary; otherwise, recessed up-lights can be individually adjusted. When sessions stretch to 12 hours long, weary editors can take a break in lounges backing each booth. The lounges boast wire Bird seating by Harry Bertoia and marble-topped Tulip tables by Eero Saarinen, rivaling the most au courant living room.
At the heart of the installation, transmission suites make an unbeatable case for transparency and interconnectedness. Two glass-fronted ovals are divided into eight wedge-shape stations by sliding panels of acoustical glass. This arrangement gives operators auditory privacy yet visual access. Just outside, Pierre Paulin's Orange Slice chairs offer a front-row seat for marveling at technology in action.
"When we expose the brain to change, it wakes up and asks questions," Caddy says. "That's the premise behind our architectural detailing and furniture." Even in nonpublic areas, that approach was key to the Corinthian scheme. Green rooms, for example, come in different design flavors. The "pop" version wows on-air talent with Verner Panton's Heart Cone chair and Pierre Paulin and Geoffrey Harcourt's chaise and Tongue chairs—all in seductive shades of red. '
Red accents reappear in a breakout lounge, where seating by Antonio Citterio beckons, and in the screening center, whose rows of stacking chairs combine translucent acrylic backs with lipstick-red seats. Dressing rooms make a spirited presentation, too, with T Vac chairs by Ron Arad and daringly curvy seating by Ross Lovegrove. That's far from kid's stuff.