City skylines usually evolve by way of demolition, often to the regret of the local population. I am delighted to say that the iconic Battersea Power Station is being restored and integrated into an exciting riverside development.
For those who have never visited London but have only ever seen the great city as depicted in mid-last century’s movies they would believe that a “peasouper” – a dense fog that ground London to a wheezing halt – was typical.
Sadly, meteological conditions alone were not entirely responsible for the London’s fogs, the unabated burning of fossil fuels, particularly coal, was a major contributor. London’s Great Smog of 1952 led to the 1956 Clean Air Act.
Battersea Power Station is a decommissioned coal fired power station – that burned around 1m tons of coal annually – located on London’s south bank at Nine Elms. It was designed Sir Giles Gilbert Scott – the designer of London’s famous red-telephone boxes – and built of brick. It comprises two buildings: A Station – containing many Art Deco influences including Italian marble and parquet floors – was being built in the 1930s and B Station – slightly to the East – was built Post WWII in the austerity of 1950s.
In 1983, as direct response to the need for more careful environmental management the station ceased to generate electricity thus leading to a nearly thirty-five year long struggle to maintain the stunning Grade II listed building whilst trying to decide what and who should be entrusted with its future.
Various attempts were been made to purchase the building with a view to redeveloping the site. In 1983 it was thought that a Theme Park might be a bright idea, planning permission was granted in 1986 and work stared including the removal of the roof. Costs rose astronomically and development was halted in 1989. In 1993 a Hong Kong based consortium started a decade long journey to try to develop the site. Further attempts in 2004 stalled and a sale in 2006 collapsed when loans were called in.
In 2012 a Malaysian consortium purchased with the restoration of the Grade II Power Station as a centre piece. A combination of shops, leisure facilities and office space would sit alongside residential homes and a new Northern Line tube extension. Construction commenced in 2013 with an intended completion in 2017. The Northern Line extension will take until 2020, with Frank Gehry – see previous post – Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and Foster & Partners being appointed joint architects of this latter stage.
In September 2016, Apple announced plans to relocate 1,400 employees to the station by 2021.
Battersea Power Station is not only a world famous London landmark it has appeared in many films including Albert Hitchcock’s “Sabotage” (1936) – before B Station was built, The Beatles’ “Help”, Monty Python’s “Meaning of Life” and the 2007 Batman movie “The Dark Night”.
Perhaps the most celebrated artistic uses of Battersea Power Station was on the cover photo of Pink Floyd’s “Animals” album in 1977 which was loosely based on George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. The band’s Roger Waters commissioned artist Jeffrey Shaw and Ballon Fabrik to design, “Algie”, an inflatable pig which was tied to one of the Station’s southern chimneys. The pig broke loose and caused consternation as it drifted into Heathrow’s flightpath eventually landing in Kent.
Images courtesy of Pink Floyd/Jeffrey Shaw/Warner Music Group/The Telegraph
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