Origins of White City

Like Imperial, White City’s roots date back to the period of great international exhibitions in the 19th and early 20th century.

Postcard from the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908The area was farmland until the early 20th century when it was transformed with 25 acres of palaces and halls. Most of these steel and concrete buildings were covered with white stucco, giving the area its name, and they were interspersed with Venetian-style canals. In 1908 they were used to host both the Summer Olympics and the Franco-British Exhibition, at which a team of physicists from Imperial College of Science and Technology (established only a year earlier) showcased their equipment.

In the 1920s, Hammersmith Council built the first major housing developments in the area, the Cleverly estate and the Wormholt estate, which was created in the garden city style to be spacious and include green space.

The BBC opened its iconic Television Centre in 1960, which would serve as the headquarters of BBC Television for half a century, making the area a cultural and artistic hub.

Recent history

In 2008 the Westfield shopping centre was opened, including a multi-screen cinema and many food and drink outlets. When it opened it was the size of 30 football pitches, making it the largest shopping centre in London; after it expanded in 2018, it became the largest in Europe.

Imperial College London made its first purchase of land in White City in 2009, buying a brownfield site from the BBC and breaking ground the following year on what would become the north side of the White City Campus.

In 2012 the BBC sold Television Centre to the developer Stanhope, which is creating a new business district and the ‘creative campus’ White City Place, with offices, places to eat and drink, and even a podcasting hub.

In 2013 Imperial completed the purchase of a further large site from the insurance agency Aviva, allowing it to substantially expand its ambitions for the campus. This would become the south side of the campus.

Combined with the land which College bought from the BBC since 2009, Imperial’s total landholding for the White City Campus stands at 23 acres. The north and south sites form one contiguous development adjacent to the Westway (A40).

Opportunity area

The Greater London Authority (GLA) and Hammermsith and Fulham Council have made White City an ‘opportunity area’, to attract new homes and jobs, particularly in creative industries and biomedical research. They plan to create more open space, improved facilities for local people, and better pedestrian and cycling connections, to help create a mixed and balanced community. 

White City timeline 

1908 White City hosts the Franco-British Exhibition and the Summer Olympic Games
 1912 Hammersmith Hospital opens
 1917 Queens Park Rangers Football Club moves to Loftus Road Stadium
 1935–1955 Construction of the White City Estate
 1960 BBC Television Centre opens
 2008 Westfield shopping centre opens 
 2009 Imperial makes its first purchase of land in White City
 2012 BBC sells Television Centre to developers Stanhope
 2012–2022 The various stages of Imperial’s White City Campus are developed