Bush House

Completed June 2018

King's College London recently acquired Bush House; built between 1925-35: once dubbed the most expensive building in the world and long time home the BBC World Service. The redevelopment project looked to overhaul all 55,000sqm - across 3 buildings and 11 stories - into state-of-the-art teaching facilities capable of servicing over 5,000 student and staff a day. Atelier Works were tasked with solving the wayfinding strategy and then designing it.

Situated in the heart of London, the building's facade and public lobby areas are grade-II listed, which presented many challenges as to how we approached many of the design aspects: from the fixings to the colours, materials and even type used.

In all, the project took over two and half years to complete with individual floors and wings being opened in stages.


The wayfinding strategy in and of itself is very simple; split the site into individual wings then align and name those wings to the compass points. The simplicity of this allowed for a couple of things. Firstly, a frequent building user would quickly develop a mental understanding and orientation of Bush House. And secondly, a new visitor would only be limited to a quarter of the site to navigate round, thus finding where they need to be quicker.

Once a user had located the right floor in a wing, the strategy was simply a choice of left or right to reach their destination. Beyond that, major locations such as lecture theaters were signed appropriately; and smaller rooms such as class rooms or offices were numbered sequentially.

Aligned (mostly) to the compass points.

Left or right, the only choices available.


Upon entering any main entrance throughout the Bush House site, you are greeted by a short introductory text either explaining King's link to the local community or how they are making an impact on the global stage.

The majority of these texts are printed into hanging fabric banners, something we felt is appropriate for a building built in the 1920's.

The notion of subtly telling the brand story of King's has been so well received, it has now become the norm for other building and campus receptions.

North entrance reception banner.

Needing to be less on brand, the south entrance.

Main circulation

The main circulation of each wing was dealt with by a free standing in the central stairwell-come-lift lobby areas. These 4 sided structures were designed in such a way that they could be easily repaired (modular form) and updated (vinyl graphics). The form is meant to copy the corner detailing in the surrounding lobby areas and the colour match that of existing furnishings.

On each totem, two faces contained the directional signage required for people to navigate the floor they were on. The other two faces were used for the building directory (only on floors with entrances) or for King's brand value related graphics; for example the Open Doors project which champions BME and other minority group students' and staffs' contribution to King's or the community.

An example of the totem directory and direction information.

The spare face being used for the Open Doors campaign.

In the north east and south east wings, the buildings configuration required a different design for the main circulation wayfinding totem. These consisted of a two-sided totem suspended between the floor and ceiling, making minimal impact to the marble-clad lobby.

Similar to the other totems, this design used one face for directories and/or directional information, and the other face for the brand value graphics.

Front face: directional and directory information.

Back face: more Open Doors.

We again took inspiration from the building fabric in order to keep the totems in keeping with the style of building; we used the foot of banisters baluster on our design and also match the colour of the iron-work.

Feet of the new totems matching the feet of the 90 year old stairs.

Arrival confirmation

Throughout the development each floor was designated to a particular department, school, service or educational use. This meant that once one crosses from the threshold from the lobby area into the rest of floor they have reached their destination.

In order to confirm their arrival at a destination we implemented large typographic super-graphics with the department name; they also helped the occupiers of that floor feel like they had more ownership of the area.

These were made from a variety of mediums; the main being white or wall colour tints sign masked graphics. For more impact we opted for fabricated lettering. In one instance where the wall was replaced with glazing we used a translucent vinyl.

Combining bright colours with classic typefaces.

As confirmation of destination, it doesn't get any clearer.

Sometimes just the 3D lettering is all thats needed.

A couple of the walls were used an subtle directional queues.

Designed to be clearly read through doorways.

Translucent vinyl: looks even cooler when the doors are open.

Other graphics

The last element of the wayfinding are the individual room numbers. These were individual numbers mostly applied to the glazing of offices or classrooms; the offices included a perspex holder for the occupants names, title and contact hours. A strategy was worked out for the order of each room number - which was implemented consistently on every floor.

A shared office space.

An individual office.

Other ancillary elements of the wayfinding project included floor numbers and door graphics for facilities (such as toilets and showers). These graphics were simple vinyl graphics in, again, colours to match the existing ironwork.

Level numbers on the lifts.

Level numbers at the top of staircases.

Period revival

The lobby areas of Bush House contained postal tubes from when it was first built. These postal tubes had lovely had engraved, in-filled period hand lettering; all of them were slightly different, as to be expected of hand lettering.

We documented then traced this lettering and bought it to two areas within Bush House. The first being the public café / gallery area which needed to look like it was not part of the University campus; and as such more open to the public. The second location were the doorways to the main auditorium.

Arcade Café sign in a very non-King's font and colour.

An original postal tube and the traced letters.

The east courtyard space of Bush House is intended to be the main circulation area between each wing. However, only two of the wings (north east and south east wings) had their names carved into the Portland stone lintels above the courtyard doors. This meant adding the text to the lintel above the doorway into the north and south wing.

Seeing that the external facade of the building was also listed, the style of the lettering had to be authentic to the period. This meant a studious process of documenting and tracing the lettering, then scanning and piecing together digitally so as to trace over digitally. A long process of refining on screen and running out actual size print out outs to make sure all elements of the lettering were correct. The final design was then handed over to a stone carver.

Stone carved lettering made to look as authentic as possible.