Al Jazeera unveils state-of-the-art new studio at London's Shard

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The studio has an atypical open floor-plan and no physical acoustic wall enclosure(Credit: Hufton+Crow)

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The Al Jazeera Media Network (AJMN) has opened a new UK headquarters and broadcast studio in one of London's most iconic buildings. The new facility at the Shard skyscraper is both unconventional and cleverly designed.

At its new studio, AJMN will be neighbors with the likes of luxury hotel chain Shangri-La. Unlike for most of its neighbors, however, the space into which AJMN has moved presented a number of limitations that the organization had to overcome.

TV studios are typically large open spaces into which scenery and equipment can be easily transported and that offer plenty of room to meet broadcast production requirements. AJMN's new facility, however, breaks out of the traditional "black box" studio design. It is on the 16th floor of the skyscraper and has a predetermined floorplate with an atypical open floor-plan and no physical acoustic wall enclosure.

"The major challenge was to the invert the restrictive constraints of a high-rise building into a design asset by restructuring the perspective composition to enhance a cinematic wide-angle depth of space resulting in the unique channel spatial brand identity," explains Stuart A. Veech, Creative Director of Vienna-based architects Veech x Veech.

Veech x Veech was tasked with creating a broadcast production facility, multi-purpose newsroom and studio for AJMN. Where most TV studios are said to work with a minimum height of 4.5 m (14.8 ft), the firm had to create a studio with a ceiling height of just 2.8 m (9.2 ft).

As a result, a highly efficient layout of broadcast technologies was required in order to fit them all in the space available. For example, the complex ceiling setup includes primary studio and workplace lighting, acoustic equipment, heating, ventilating and air conditioning equipment, sprinkler and smoke detectors – all integrated into the structural steel beams.

Veech x Veech says that the low ceilings were transformed into a feature for on-air appearance. In what it says is a world first for 24/7 news-programming, the low-level lighting integrated into the ceiling is fully automated and can accommodate any potential camera angles or illumination levels. The ability to move the lighting integrated into ceiling using digital equipment located in the gallery, meanwhile, increases the production possibilities and format-types that can be filmed and means that changes can be made on-the-fly.

The glass façade and cameras have special filters to manage light exposure from outside. The façade is treated with Rosco View polarizing filter panels that balance and optimize the internal and ever-changing external lighting levels throughout the daily programming cycle.

As with other TV studios, camera angles were taken into account in order to design the layout, with particular consideration given to how perspectives would appear differently on-screen as opposed to in real-life. The studio was created as a single space within which lighting, the view out of the windows to London and the digital presentation screens could all be effectively used.

The adjacent newsroom mirrors the stylistic approach of the studio. This is aimed at contributing to AJMN's brand identity, with the newsroom being used as a backdrop for filming in the studio.

Over 100 AJMN employees are now based at The Shard across 27,800 sq ft (2,600 sq m) of floor space.

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