4. Commericializing Battersea

<em>Animals,</em> Pink Floyd (1977)

While Bankside Power Station’s evolution into the Tate Modern Museum has been met with contemporary praise, the development of Battersea Power Station has struggled to find momentum. Rather than being acquired by an art gallery or another government-affiliated organization, the building has been subjected to the whims of several commercial schemes proposed by a long list of developers and owners. Battersea Power Station has had a long relationship with London, even after its decommission in 1983.[1] The iconic four-tower structure has been featured frequently in pop culture, from The Beatles' 1965 movie Help! to the cover art of Pink Floyd's 1977 album Animals, and it has been used as a filming location for productions such as The Dark Knight and Sherlock.[2]  In 1980, Battersea Power Station became Grade II listed, ensuring the site’s original owners, Central Electricity Generating Board, could not simply sell an empty lot for housing and limiting the amount of structure-altering renovation could be conducted. [3] Tycoon John Broome, once owner of Alton Towers, purchased the entire plot in 1986 for £1.5 million, and funds a development project by Fitzroy Robinson, who proposed a theme park at the site, with initial costs estimated at £35 million. [4]  Work halted on the scheme three years later after costs ballooned to £230 million, and the site was left in a “semi-derelict” state.

 
Gehry and Foster Three Stage Redevelopment Plan (2014)

The power station changed owners in 1993 when it is bought by Victor Hwang’s Parkview for a reported £10 million, and a master plan for leisure complex by Philip Dowson of Arup Associates wins outline planning permission. [5]  Engineer and designer Cecil Balmond replaced Dowson on master plan in 2003, after Hwang discovered Balmond’s collaboration with architect Toyo Ito on the 2002 Serpentine Pavilion. [6]The pavilion is subsequently dismantled and re-built besides the power station as the developer’s sales and marketing office, and plans are developed for the site that include hotels, retail, offices and even an exclusive ‘table for two’ restaurant at the top of one of the chimneys. [7]  In 2007, Battersea Power Station upgraded to Grade II*, affording its structure and façade additional protections from demolition and alteration, and architect Rafael Viñoly is appointed as new master planner. [8]  Multiple plans for the structure and site are proposed, one even calling for the removal of the stations iconic chimney towers, are proposed for the site. As of 2013, the current plan for the site includes a condominium complex called Circus West, as well as development of the power station itself, theoretically transforming the turbine halls into single story halls connected by a central atrium and lined with cafes, shops, and restaurants.[9]

 

Circus West Proposed Development (2013)

While the results of the newest redevelopment plan at Battersea are still in the works, the nearly continuous commercial development over the past three decades at Battersea demonstrate a commercial desire to capitalize on the ‘brand’ of Battersea and its cultural iconic significance. While the building is loved by some and hated by others, its iconicity, cultural significance, and industrial heritage cannot be denied, and therefore can be considered a potential monument. Simultaneously, due to the large size, location, and a string of redevelopment projects that could not procure significant funds, the building has yet to capitalize on that iconicity. The work of Battersea Power Station Development Co. represents an attempt to cash in on the iconicity of a landmark, a 21st century move to capitalize on the importance of a building for profit. While still an ongoing process, the evolution of Battersea Power Station will reveal just how successful the reinvention and monetization of such a famous city landmark can be in the future.


[1] "The sad story of Battersea Power Station: a graveyard of architectural visions." Things Magazine.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] "News Room | Battersea Power Station." Battersea Power Station. (Development Website) http://www.batterseapowerstation.co.uk/news-room/

4. Commericializing Battersea