Raising the roof at BAFTA

A major refurbishment project

195 Piccadilly has been the home of BAFTA since 1974. The building, originally built in 1883, has undergone minor refurbishments in the last 140 years, with the current renovation being the most significant in its history.

This major refurbishment includes renovation of the 227 seat Princess Anne Theatre, and raising the original roof lights which had been covered up for 45 years to create a new floor and gallery area.

Additionally, a complete refurbishment of the building will create work and meeting space for those working in the creative arts.

Making scaffolding centre stage

GKR was commissioned by Knight Harwood to design and create access solutions both internally and externally, whilst being sensitive to the heritage of the building.

The project was a series of challenges as not one part of the scaffolding at BAFTA was founded from a baseplate and sole board. Everything required being suspended, cantilevered, required steel support or complex ties.

GKR has installed a 32-metre temporary Haki roof covering the entire building with 9 lines of Nico Rail that has the capacity to lift 1000kgs each to the underside of the temporary roof. The Haki roof is free standing for the top 14 metres so tie loads into the building for the temporary roof are colossal.

This has allowed for the original glass lanterns to be repositioned one floor higher as a whole new mezzanine floor is being installed.

With Knight Harwood completely demolishing the upper floors, GKR worked with checking engineers Luckling and Clark to develop a diaphragm wall tie system to support the façade walls and the temporary roof.

It also provided heavy duty birdcage access to demolish existing floors which acted as a skeleton to tie the internal walls together while they were being rebuilt.

The number of ties themselves needed consideration on this heritage building. GKR’s preliminary design included 86 ties to the Piccadilly elevation due to the high tie loads caused by the large span Haki roof.

However, after consultation with English Heritage, it was agreed to reduce the number of ties by 60%. This required GKR to design a ‘super tie’ that would take the load capacity of 3 ties and would load share from the scaffold back into these reduced tie points.

The ‘super tie’ was designed to take a 30kn load, achieved by drilling M18mm thread rod through the entire wall and placing a 250mm x 250mm x 30mm plate within the inner wall recess or connecting directly to the diaphragm wall support scaffold internally. Externally there was the same plate thickness with 2 x 2400mm scaffold tubes welded to the plates, the tie was connected to the tread rod with 2 x M18 bolts.

The load share was a combination of plan bracing with multiple check fittings and whaling beams between tie points. The last tie point was 14m below the roof due to load restrictions on the top two floors of the building.

Safe solutions for London’s busy West End

The entire Piccadilly elevation was founded on huge spreader steels spanning the scaffold loads onto the vault walls below. Above a live shopping arcade, the North elevation had to be cantilevered out of formed pockets in the building façade to provide access, support and protection above this busy live area. The scaffold was designed to be erected fully tethered.

Additionally, scaffold standards could not be used for the East and South elevations in order to protect the adjacent church and churchyard. GKR had to design a gallows bracket system as no loadings were allowed into this historic area. The gallows where constructed at 2nd floor level and cleverly tied into the 2nd floor building support system.

To the East elevation, 750mm upright Apollo beams were used, drill tied to the party wall to provide roof support. These beams also acted as a roof tying system to resist uplift from the roof in this area.

The final act

BAFTA has been the perfect job for those of us that love what we do. The level of engineering and planning required to create such individual solutions for every single part of the job has been a satisfying challenge.

GKR overcame significant engineering challenges and the logistics of working on a busy London street, whilst being sensitive to the aesthetics of a historic building.

BAFTA took back residency at 195 Piccadilly in 2021 after sensitively turning this 140-year-old building into a modern hub for the creative industries.




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