Bush House is a building between Aldwych and The Strand in London at the southern end of Kingsway. The BBC World Service occupies the Centre Block, North East and South East wings. The North West wing was formerly occupied by BBC Online until they relocated to BBC Media Village in 2005, with some studio and office space being retained by the World Service until 2008. The wing is now serviced office space, with the majority occupied by Deloitte. The South West wing is occupied by HM Revenue & Customs.
Sections of the building were completed and opened over a period of 13 years:
- 1923 - Centre Block
- 1928 - North West wing
- 1929 - North East wing
- 1930 - South East wing
- 1935 - South West wing
This quintessentially British building was commissioned, designed and originally owned by American individuals and companies. Irving T. Bush gained approval for his plans for the building in 1919, which was planned as a major new trade centre and designed by American architect Harvey Wiley Corbett. The construction was undertaken by John Mowlem & Co.
The building's opening ceremony was performed by Lord Balfour on 4 July 1925. It included the unveiling of two statues at the entrance made by American artist Malvina Hoffman. The statues symbolise Anglo-American friendship and the building bears the inscription ‘To the friendship of English speaking peoples’. Built from Portland stone, Bush House was in 1929 declared the "most expensive building in the world", having cost around £2,000,000 ($10,000,000).
In January 1930 during the Bush House excavations for the south east wing, a marble head was uncovered from a pile of rubble. The head is an elderly, balding Roman man carved from Carrara marble. He has a finely chiseled face and a rather grim irritated expression. The point of his nose has been bitten off, and his ears have been damaged. There are various ideas to its origin. It could be a remnant from a Roman bath or villa outside the walls of Roman London, or it could have been an Italian copy imported in the 18th Century and used as a garden ornament. Old maps of the area show a large house occupying a site close by. The marble head is now on display in the Centre Block of Bush House.
After a landmine damaged Broadcasting House on 8 December 1940, the BBC European Service moved into the south-east wing of the building; the rest of the Overseas Service followed in 1958.
In 1944 Bush House suffered damage from a V-1 flying bomb dropped in the Aldwych. One of the statues lost an arm. The statue remained damaged until 1970 when an American visiting his daughter at the London School of Economics, which is nearby, saw the damaged statue. He worked for the Indiana Limestone Company and persuaded the company to send a new arm and a stonemason to attach it in time for the Silver Jubilee celebrations of Elizabeth II in 1977.
The BBC's lease with Kato Kagaku (the Japanese company that owns the building) expires at the end of 2012. The BBC plans to move World Service to Broadcasting House following its ongoing expansion and renovation programme, known as the W1 Project. There have been renewed rumours that the neighbouring London School of Economics may purchase Bush House to expand its campus.