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In accordance with the latest trends in modern architecture and acoustics, American broadcasters are building new studios to house their air programs with a view to improving pick-up, to making the artists feel more at home, and at the same time providing for a growing demand on the part of the public to see and hear productions as they are being broadcast.

New Styles in

By Merle S. Cummings
Radio News, April, 1936

The main Holly-wood broadcasting center of NBC is the most modern in technical layout and appearance and isnkeeping with the surroundings, down to the last palm tree

The networks and the large individual stations throughout the United States are investing heavily in modernized and enlarged studio quarters. It was natural that, following recent trends in programs and technical equipment, appropriate studio settings for the physical presentation of broadcasts should be provided. While it is true that the decorative features of a broadcasting studio have no direct bearing on what the listener thinks of the station's offerings, the new and attractive type of program chambers prove their worth as a psychological factor in getting the best out of entertainers' endeavors. Also, with the growing trend for visible audiences in the key cities, stations are eager to provide surroundings as pleasing to the eye as they hope their programs are to the ear.

While studio improvements have been made at many stations in recent weeks, the two outstanding ventures in broadcasting halls are in Hollywood and Chicago. HoIlywood has been growing in importance as a radio talent center since the exodus of big names from the East due to lucrative talking-picture offers for the headliners of the air.

Hollywood Studios

NBC, long feeling the need for more modern studio facilities in the Cinema Capital, took over the old Consolidated Film Industries Studio on Melrose Avenue. Or rather, they took over what was left of the building. The structure was largely destroyed by fire several years ago. Now as the network's West Coast studios, the building has been made fireproof and earthquake proof. The broadcasting chambers, of modern design have been constructed according to the principles followed in New York's Radio City.

The structure's exterior is modern, coinciding with the interior. Air-conditioning, soundproofing and other technical features of Radio City were applied to the building. 0. B. Hanson, the network's chief engineer, designed the project which was built under the supervision of Gordon Strang, construction engineer, and E. J. Tyler, installation engineer. Besides the main building housing three studios and administrative offices, there is a second smaller structure which has been converted into a single studio exclusively for auditions. Neighboring the new studios are the RKO and Paramount movie lots.

Two stories in height, the main building is 140 feet long and 75 feet deep. The exterior is of white stucco, with chromium and black metal trim added to the decorative scheme. A large vertical neon sign of black and chrome is over the entrance. The annex building is of similar design.

Studio Layout

The two principal studios are on the second floor of the main building. These are known as Studios A and B and are patterned after Studio 8-G of Radio City, along theatrical lines. Studio A accommodates 276 persons as on-lookers while Studio B can take care of 210 guests. Studio D is in the center of the main floor while Studio C is in the adjoining smaller building. Dressing rooms, clients' rooms and various executive offices are attractively laid out.


Scene on the stage in the new Hollywood NBC Studio, where the artists and performers, as well as the audience, tensely awaited the opening strains of the inaugural programChicago also has come to the fore along with Hollywood as a talent center. Hence, it is not surprising to find the station owners making heavy investments in new studio accommodations. The most elaborate new studio venture of the Windy City was the opening of the $600,000 building of Station WGN on Tribune Square. This 50-kilowatt station, one of the most prominent in the Midwest, is a point of origin for several programs on the schedule of the Mutual Broadcasting System.

Modern Interior

The building exterior is Gothic while the interior is modern. The structure includes six studios -- each with a control room. There are also four clients' rooms, three observation rooms, one main control room, dressing and lounging rooms, a sound effects laboratory, a transcription chamber, a music library and various offices and work rooms. Prizes totaling $5,000 were offered in a competition of interior designs. Out of 189 submitted plans, the first award went to Ernest A. Grunsfeld, of Chicago, who was retained to supervise the execution of his designs and decorations for Studio One. This studio, the main attraction of the building, is the largest radio studio in the country, outside of New York.

No musical instruments are harder to reproduce perfectly than the organ and the piano. This new Studio at WGN, Chicago, introduces the eye and ear to new possibilities

The illustration above shows Studio Number 2. Below are: Studio Number 10 and a nook in the artist's private dressing room

The Large Auditorium

Studio One is 70 feet long and 65 feet wide with 588 opera chairs placed in permanent rows and tiered from the front of the house to the rear providing clear views of the production platform for every guest. The concert stage is large enough to accommodate an entire symphony orchestra. There are two glasswalled booths on either side of the platform. The lower left booth is for engineering controls while the one above is for lighting controls which yield special effects as programs are presented. The upper and lower-right booths are for clients and guests. A public-address system, enabling the studio guests to hear the programs exactly as they go on the air, is also provided. A projection room, completely equipped, provides for the showing of talking pictures in this auditorium studio. The smaller studios, all embodying distinctive features, include a speaker's chamber with the trappings of a luxurious lounge to offset mike-fright, an organ room and a small announcer's studio for the presentation of news flashes and various program cut-ins.

This is the main Studio Number 1 at WGN, seating an audience of 588 persons. The control, monitoring and announcing rooms, totally enclosed in glass, are seen at the right and left of the stage

An unusual feature for a radio station is a plant for the manufacture of electrical transcriptions.

As this article is being written finishing touches are being applied to the three additional studios of NBC in Chicago. These three chambers supplement the previous NBC space of 65,000 square feet previously utilized atop Merchandise Mart. It is quite likely that the three new studios will be in use at the time this article reaches print.

When the initial Chicago studios were opened in 1928, only two were needed. Two years later, the quarters were moved to the Merchandise Mart where first six and later eight studios were opened. The Chicago staff, exclusive of artists, exceeded 300 persons. A portion of space in Merchandise Mart was left unfinished for future expansion and it is this space that the new studios occupy. The new units are each 17 by 30 feet in size with adjoining control rooms and storage space. The storage compartments are an innovation in studio design yielding facilities to stow chairs, drums and other equipment that is unsightly when not in use. Echo chambers, similar to those in Radio City, have also been constructed. There is also a new pipe organ chamber 12 by 30 feet in size.

It should be noted that this trend toward studio expansion and modernization has also been effective in New York, despite the previously constructed or acquired auditorium-sized presentation chambers. The Columbia Broadcasting System now operates three Radio Playhouses in the Times Square area in addition to its modernized studio suite at its headquarters building on Madison Avenue. The three CBS radio, playhouses were formerly known as the Little, Avon and Hudson Theatres. NBC, despite its own huge auditorium studio, utilizes The Hippodrome Theatre for the Tuesday "Jumbo" program. And WOR, the Newark station serving as the metropolitan New York outlet for Mutual Broadcasting System programs, has taken over the Times Square Studios atop the New Amsterdam Theatre Building formerly occupied by NBC.

From London, too, comes news of studio expansion by the British Broadcasting Corporation. In order to meet new demands of program development, new studios have been erected at Maida Vale, London. The main premises were originally designed to house one of the largest skating rinks in the world. The total floor area of the five new B.B.C. studios and their associated listening rooms is over 17,000 square feet. The building also includes recording rooms -- presumably for the Blattnerphone rebroadcasts on the Empire short-wave station -- a suite of offices and a staff restaurant.

The largest Maida Vale studio -- Number One -- has a floor area of 72 by 110 feet. Studios Two and Three, are of the same size and shape -- 70 by 43 feet. Zig-zag wall panels -- similar to those recently introduced at the CBS New York studios are employed in one of the British radio chambers. Two smaller studios are designed for dance bands or other musical groups.

Many experimental features were applied in the new British studios. But they are recognized as methods already used in the U.S.A. For example, there is no structural connection between the studios and the buildings. It is the principle known here as the "box-within-a-box" method. Special emphasis in design has been placed on acoustical properties.

It is apparent that all improvements in studio facilities should lead to still better program fare.

Related Articles:
NBC Builds Radio City
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Tour San Francisco NBC Studios
Take a virtual tour of the NBC San Francisco radio studios of the 1940s. Complete with floor plan and photos of the building as it appeared when first opened.