TV-am’s iconic studio frontage demolished

TV-am studios in 2009Fans of classic TV are in mourning as they say farewell to the unique style of the former ITV studios of TV-am, the original commercial UK breakfast station. Current owners MTV are replacing the iconic structure with a bland ‘modern’ replacement.


Fans of classic TV are in mourning as they say farewell to the unique style of the former ITV studios of TV-am, the original commercial UK breakfast station. Current owners MTV are replacing the iconic structure with a bland ‘modern’ replacement.

TV-am studios in 1992The studio frontage, and part of the building, which won a Civic Trust award in 1985, has now been demolished to make way for a new-look MTV London base. Described as ‘the first real example of a post modern architecture in Britain’ the plans for TV-am’s studios were started in 1981 by Sir Terry Farrel, an award winning architect. (right the studio frontage in 1992, before the TVam lettering was covered over with large circles). The building work began late in 1981 for the on-air launch of Britain’s first networked breakfast station in 1983.

Officially named the Breakfast Television Centre the studios were not built from scratch. Instead a former garage, built in the 1920s, was converted into the TV-am base and for nearly 30 years has been a landmark of Camden’s town centre.

The main entrance of the building was instantly recognisable as being the home of the company with TVam in large letters placed down either end of the frontage, it was however the rear of the building which became home to a quirky feature. 12 plastic egg cups, complete with equally plastic eggs, were placed at intermittent points along the roof edge.

Another stand-out feature was the ‘sunrise’ archway entrance to the studios. The sun set on TV-am in December 1992 after the company lost its ITV breakfast licence to GMTV. The studio complex was taken over by MTV UK in 1993.

After years of neglect the eggcups and the frontage of the studios were repainted, taking the building back to its TV-am colour scheme only a couple of years ago. So the major alterations by MTV have come as a surprise to many fans of archive television. The details were first revealed late last year.

The replacement structure has been deemed bland, and while it has colour, it isn’t anywhere near as unique as its predecessor.

Sean Griffiths of Fashion Architecture Taste told Architects Journal that “What is being proposed is yet another example of polite, boring, mind-deadening corporate managerial Modernism, of the kind that is sucking the life out of London’s cityscape.” Griffiths added that “the structure was a crucial piece of UK history and replacing the 1983 building’s sunrise archway and keystone with a new facade is as bad as knocking down the Euston Arch.”

Entrance to TV-am in 1992Comments on the official TV-am website include “I can’t believe they have been allowed to get away with changing this great building – it’s such a shame – it has looked much better since they re painted it in the TV-am colours – now they are ruining it and the egg cups at the back – it’s a very focal point in Camden”, Roy Mitchell said.

Stephen added, “I agree with the comments above. How could they get away with making these hideous changes to a much loved and important building.”

Currently the TV-am egg cups on the Regent’s Canal side of the building remain, and are said to be listed structures. A small reminder of the days of its former morning glory – which the management of the studios say will remain as part of the revamped MTV site.

The Twentieth Century Society had tried, and failed, to get the TV-am frontage listed. They described the destruction of the iconic North London structure as “acutely controversial.” Adding that “the centre belongs to the very first generation of Post-modern architecture in Britain.”

ATV Critic Justin Mason said “Progress is fine, when its a visual improvement. Sadly London has lost a very unique frontage, and a historic one that in years to come will be looked upon as important in the history of British broadcasting. Money however is placed as more important than cultural heritage these days and it seems slightly fancier office accommodation too.”

In recent years, with ITVplc intent on killing off the regional independent television structure, a number of production centres have closed and have been demolished. These include the City Road studios of Tyne Tees Television which had been in use since 1959, ATV Centre in Birmingham which was opened in 1969 for ATV Network and later Central, Meridian’s Television Centre in Southampton which dated back to the Southern Television days – opening in 1969. Also gone from the media landscape, most recently, the fomer Border Television centre in Carlisle was raised to the ground in 2010.

Some have however found new uses, Westward and TSW’s Derry Cross studios in Plymouth were occupied by a solicitors for many years after television left them in 1992 (although Derry Cross was finally demolished in 2010) and the Central Nottingham Studios were taken over by a university in 2004.

You can share memories of TV-am, and its programmes such as Good Morning Britain and Wide Awake Club, at the official TV-am company website here.