BBC Buildings - Bush House
The iconic home of BBC World Service
Designed by Harvey Corbett, Bush House was built in 1923 with further wings added between 1928 and 1935. This quintessentially British building was actually commissioned, designed and originally owned by American individuals and companies. The building was originally constructed for an Anglo-American trading organisation headed by Irving T. Bush, after whom it is named.
It opened in July 1925, and later that decade was declared the ‘most expensive building in the world, having cost around £2 million.
Bush House occupies a dramatic position at the bottom of Kingsway in central London, connected to the Strand on its southern façade. Its particularly impressive portico is flanked by two male statues symbolising Anglo-American friendship, sculpted by the American artist Malvina Hoffman. Over a Celtic altar at the centre of the portico is the inscription 'Dedicated to the friendship of English-speaking peoples'. The BBC's foreign language broadcasting service began in 1938 from Broadcasting House in Portland Place. After this building was bombed during the Second World War, the service was re-located to Bush House in 1941 – beginning with the European Service, then followed by the rest of the Overseas Service in 1958. This building in turn suffered bomb damage and the statue representing America lost its left arm. It was restored in 1977.
Over many years all the BBC's foreign language services gradually invaded Bush House, penetrating each wing in turn. It has broadcast to and from Bush House for almost 70 years – covering events that have changed and shaped the world, from De Gaulle's broadcasts to the Free French in the Second World War through Hungary’s despearate call for help as Russian tanks rolled into Budapest to the genocide in Rwanda and war in Kosova.
However, the BBC has never owned Bush House. Its owners were variously the Church of Wales, the Post Office and now a Japanese-owned organisation, but for millions of overseas listeners it remains the building which most represents the BBC.