Battersea Power Station – The untold story of the East Wall.

According to news emanating from the developers of Battersea Power Station via the Evening Standard– Apple (the suits not the manufacturing) plan to occupy almost half of the beloved art deco building (500,000 square feet) in 2021, relocating 1,400 of its employees from Oxford Circus to Giles Gilbert Scott’s masterpiece.

Despite the expectation of a bright future, the shine has come off the PR coup as the building Apple is moving into, won’t be the Battersea Power Station, but rather a new built Battersea Fake Station. After decades of demolition by stealth, in order to provide daylight to the new office spaces, the East Wall has been demolished. The celebrated expanses of patterned brickwork will be replaced with new Art Deco-Style windows.

The historic brick work East Wall came down just a few weeks ago. It was only after the white plastic scaffold covering was removed that activists and residents realised that the East wall had gone.

East side of the Battersea Power Station without the wall - Work in Progress...

What’s left of the Battersea Power Station – The unexpected demolition of the East Wall.

Battersea Power Station and the unexpected demolition of the East wall.

View from the East side of the Power Station without the wall – Demolition in progress … (?!)

Silence in the news left everyone unaware of this latest act of heritage vandalism. Why this lack of information? And what’s the reason behind this decision to demolish? Conservation or profit?

In our film ‘Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon’, Nigel Barker, Planning and Conservation Director for London at Historic England (formerly English Heritage), described the principle of putting glazing into the East Wall as “quite challenging”.

He added: “One of the key characteristics of the power station was large blank areas of patterned brickwork.”… “If you are going to use that building, if it is going to have a new future then you are going to have to get new light in there.”…”So the decision was taken. Providing (that) the glazing is done in a way that respects and responds to the original design, then we can see it happening.”

Battersea Power Station Development Company got planning permission to put windows in the wall. But what Spectacle and the residents did not know is that they had to knock down the whole wall to realise this plan. Did Historic England know? If so, how does it fit in with their principles of conservation?

Plastic model of the Power Station redevelopment plan.

Plastic model of the Power Station redevelopment plan.

Brian Barnes, founding member of the Battersea Power Station Community Group that has fought for the protection of the site since the 1980s, said that everything has been done “behind closed doors” without any consultation. He reminds us that behind the development planning application there are over 600 documents and many subsequent “variations” which makes it hard to grasp what exactly is going on.

The lack of clarity and the broken promises leave residents and fans of the Art Deco masterpiece with many unanswered questions about the future of Battersea Power Station-  the biggest brick building in Europe.

Rob Tincknell, CEO of the Battersea Power Station Development Company, told The Guardian: “to fill the power station with shops, offices, luxury apartments and £30m-plus penthouses, and surround it with yet more apartment blocks [… is] paying for this [restoration]. You don’t just regenerate this out of thin air.” But this is not restoration: it is desecration.

It started with John Broome in the 1980s who demolished the West Wall and took off the roof. This three decades long process of demolition by stealth of the heritage site has been allowed by Wandsworth Council.

As we can see, the West Wall has never been rebuilt.  Apparently the plan is to create a glass wall so that the luxury ‘ghost’ flats can have the daylight coming through. But the questions are – Who is going to profit and at what cost to us all and to the future generations? Why have the agencies responsible for the protection of our heritage connived in this greedy exploitation of our cultural assets?

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Memories of Battersea: Jean

Spectacle has undergone a new project, exploring oral history in our beloved Battersea neighborhood, through short videos shot during our training courses.

In Memories of Battersea we start with Jean, a Wandsworth born survivor of the Second World War. Jean recounts for us what life was like living through the German bombardment of V-1 flying bombs and V-2 rockets, her evacuation spent in Oxfordshire as a child, what has become of her first home in Savona Street as well how she feels about new development in the Battersea area.

Jean grew up in Wandsworth Borough as a child during the Second World War. Losing family members and friends, Jean tells us about the bombardment on London by V-1 flying bombs. Although only a small child, such terrible times have remained with Jean for her entire life.

After life became too dangerous for people in Battersea as a result of the bombing, she was evacuated to the village Grendon Underwood in Oxfordshire. There she was cared for by a couple in a large rectory with many others from London. Jean’s safety was short-lived however when upon her return to Battersea, the German V-2 rockets began, knocking a Church down nearby.

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 12.39.15

A still of Jean from her interview

Although Jean and her mother survived the war at home, the same could sadly not be said for her father whom was called up to fight. As many families celebrated in the streets of London, marking the end of WWII at by holding street parties called ‘Peace Teas’, Jean’s family alongside many others would never see their loved ones return from the field.

Now living in Carey Gardens near The Patmore Estate, Jean has witnessed a dramatic change in the area. No longer Savona Street, Jean’s old home has become part of what is now known as Savona Estate. More worrying for Jean however, there are now plans to build a large number of flats on the estate, a building much taller than those surrounding it including Carey Gardens.

Jean worries that these new flats may attract a different demographic of people, which wouldn’t suit the friendly nature of her beloved estate. This film was shot by participants on Spectacle’s 4 day training course.

Watch the full film here

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Battersea Power Station – what is the future?

Our film Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon, has recently been screened at Goldsmiths University, in Leiden as part of the LISFE Architecture Week, and at the 3rd International Congress on Industrial Heritage in Lisbon. These screenings have generated further interest in the tragic plight of this building and the detrimental effects of developer led conservation on listed buildings. Combined with the recent unveiling of the new Tate Modern extension, it raises questions over how the unlisted Bankside Power Station is protected by public use and interest, while the listed Battersea Power Station, still standing with just one chimney, is for private profit only.

BPS

Battersea Power Station with one fake chimney.

Keith Garner, an architect who works on the conservation of historic buildings and landscapes, is a member of the Battersea Power Station Community Group, and is featured in the film. At the Lisbon conference, Garner and Kett Murphy delivered a presentation, ‘Power Stations for the People’, which highlighted the comparison between the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station against that of Bankside Power Station, which has since become the Tate Modern. While Bankside was regenerated for recreational purposes very successfully, Battersea Power Station continues to lie at the mercy of aggressive speculative development. The contrasting redevelopment of these two buildings is crucial in understanding the issues of building preservation in an age of redevelopment.

Both Bankside and Battersea Power Station were designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, described as ‘cathedrals of power’, and considered of major architectural importance. And yet, when it came to development plans for both buildings, only Bankside’s value as a potential public asset was considered. When the Tate Modern acquired the building in 1994 to house a collection of modern art, it ultimately revitalised the area, while still maintaining the original character of the building. The transition from power station to art museum is today considered a huge success. Following the gallery’s £260m revamp, which was launched on June 17, the Chairman of the Tate stated that: ‘A building that was once London’s beating heart is now its cultural cathedral.’

However, as Garner and Murphy highlighted at the Lisbon conference, the development plans for Battersea Power Station don’t seem to be focused around the preservation of a listed Art Deco building, or the drive to create another cultural space like the Tate. Under the financing of Malaysian real estate investment consortium, led by Sime Darby, the power station will be swamped by high rise, luxury apartments, enclosed in a gated community and only accessible to the public during the day. As we have previously reported, the power station itself is in danger of becoming virtually unrecognisable, with growing concern over whether the iconic chimneys will ever be rebuilt. Unlike the regeneration of the Tate Modern, whose success is ultimately based on its inclusivity and openness, Battersea, as we have tried to highlight in our film, is becoming defined by its elitism and exclusivity. Despite Boris Johnson’s pledges that property developed at the power station would be sold to Londoners first, our investigations suggest otherwise, with findings exposing that 55% of the homes sold so far actually went to foreign money.

Battersea’s ‘regeneration’ threatens to be solely for the purpose of private economic gain. As Garner asserts, the developers have taken ‘no account of its (Battersea Power Station) dignity, reverence and serenity.’ The Battersea Power Station Community Group’s plans have ultimately been realised in the Tate Modern. However, the recent Switch House extension, a 200ft pyramid-like tower featuring three new galleries and a panoramic roof terrace, just reinforces how, if re-development and preservation had started with Battersea rather than Bankside, which is a third of the size, no such extensions would have been needed. Instead, funds are raised in order for the Tate to house 60% more artworks, whilst Battersea Power Station falls into further dereliction.

Through the re-circulating of our film, these issues of developer led conservation are once again being brought to attention. The way the Tate extension is being praised for transforming the building into ‘one of the world’s cutting edge art spaces’, only emphasises the stark contrast between the two power stations. Our film remains essential in raising an awareness that heritage led regeneration cannot, ultimately, be short-circuited, and that respect for the historic environment is paramount.

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Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon

We are pleased to announce the launch of the film Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon.

Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon from Spectacle Media on Vimeo.

Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon tells the story of Battersea Power Station from its prominence as a site of industrial power through the years of dereliction, speculation and planning blight to the replacement of the chimneys under the current scheme – a key example of developer-led preservation.

Filmed over 15 years, Spectacle’s new documentary follows the grassroots campaigns of Battersea Power Station Community Group to preserve the building for the public good. It takes us straight to the heart of the current conservation debate about whether – and how – historic buildings should be preserved, governed, modified or replaced, and ‘who’ they belong to.

Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon is unique in raising awareness to the plight of historic building preservation in an age of aggressive ‘big business’ redevelopment and gives voice to the local communities, rarely consulted and often overlooked.

The project was made possible by World Monuments Fund through support from American Express.

The film is available for free private viewing for individuals. Institutions and libraries can buy or rent the film on Vimeo on Demand.

It is also possible to purchase a DVD on our web page.

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Love me! Help me! – can art save Battersea Power Station?

Brian's poster

As Chairman of Battersea Power Station Community Group Brian Barnes has fought for the power station for 32 years.

The Battersea Power Station has without a doubt a special place in many Londoners hearts. It has this word presence – not many buildings have been featured in popular culture as much as the iconic building based on a river side site next to Thames.

Now the power station is facing a massive re-generation scheme led by the Battersea Power Station Development Company, a Malaysian consortium in charge of the ambitious building project. The scheme has stormed critique especially among local residents.

One of them is Brian Barnes, a mural artist who have been the fighting for the Battersea Power Station over three decades. Brian is Chairman of Battersea Power Station Community Group which has been campaigning to save the power station and to inform people about what the local community thinks about the redevelopment plans.

The Battersea Power Station has inspired Brian’s artwork and the posters made by Brian have been part of the Battersea Power Station Community Group’s campaign. One of Brian’s posters represent what Pink Floyd did in 1976. A helium filled 45 long pig was anchored to the chimney for the cover of Pink Floyd’s Animal album. “Battersea Power Station and the pig go together like peaches and cream” Brian says.

Algie

The iconic rock image Pink Floyd’s inflatable pig Algie has inspired Brian Barnes’ posters. Algie famously flew over Battersea Power Station for Pink Floyd’s “Animals” album cover in 1976.

However the pig isn’t the only animal Brian has used in his artwork. Orangutangs have also been a common feature in Brian’s art inspired by the power station. This is because one of the companies that owns the power station, Sime Darby – one of the biggest palm oil producers in the world – is cutting down a rainforest in equatorial zones and destroying the natural habitats of orangutangs.

“If they can do that in Borneo and threaten the rainforest and the orangutangs, I don’t think they are going to be much bothered about a building of brick”, Brian adds.

“On Valentine’s day we put up a big ‘Love’ banner up on the chimneys with a heart on it. That got everyone interested in loving Battersea Power Station”, Brian says. The 45 foot long banners which the Community Group members strung up between the chimneys have also said ‘Love me’ and ‘Help me’.

Brian believes that art helps to galvanise people’s attention to the power station and what’s going on: “Whether the chimneys are coming down or whether there is too much luxury housing around it or whether the tube station is really going to be useful for the local people”.

Brian and mural

A mural ‘Battersea in perspective’ was made in 1988. The mural including Battersea Power Station ‘is all about the Battersea area and people who are famous of being Battersea residents’ Brian says.

“Battersea Power Station missed out being an art gallery because it didn’t have a roof” Brian says referring to the Bankside power station which now serves as the Tate Modern.

The chimneys of the Battersea Power Station have been a significant part of Brian’s art. “If all the chimneys are down and the present Battersea Power Station Development Company leaves then you would have a box of brick with no chimneys”, Brian worries. At the moment the chimneys are indeed going down in order to be rebuild.

Perhaps art cannot save the Battersea Power Station. However it has spread the message of what is happening and helped social change by being a part of a wider campaign. “I used it (Battersea Power Station) as an image to represent Battersea”, Brian says and what is sure is that his campaign to save the power station isn’t over yet.

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SPECTACLE ANNOUNCES NEW FILM ON BATTERSEA POWER STATION

PRESS RELEASE: SPECTACLE ANNOUNCES NEW FILM ON BATTERSEA POWER STATION

Where's the Chimney?

Where the Ducks the Chimney? Battersea Power Station 2015

Spectacle has announced that work has begun on its new film about Battersea Power Station, commissioned by the World Monuments Fund and American Express. The film is due for release in Autumn 2015.

The film will look at the historical and architectural significance of the power station, as well as the tireless efforts of the Battersea Power Station Community Group (BPSCG) which have led a grassroots campaign to preserve the building for the public good since the early 80s.

Working with the BPSCG, the film will raise awareness to the plight of building preservation in an age of redevelopment. The redevelopment of Battersea Power Station has aroused a passionate and highly-charged debate about whether – and how – iconic buildings should be governed, preserved, modified or replaced, and ‘who’ they belong to. As Colin Thom concludes in the Survey of London Chapter: “Perhaps more than any other structure today it represents the impotence of the heritage lobby when faced with big business at its most rapacious.”

The film will follow this debate in an even-handed, factual and interesting way, becoming a case study for similar issues in other cities around the world where a historic building finds itself on a high value site.

From gracing the covers of a Pink Floyd album to generating a fifth of London’s energy at its height, Battersea Power Station is a creation steeped in industrial history and rich in meaning. With stunning imagery throughout the ages – some from Spectacle’s archive and others newly shot – the film will reveal, in a unique manner, some of that history and meaning. It will raise awareness to the needs for preservation and the current challenges faced by conservation.

***
About Spectacle

Spectacle is an award-winning independent television production company specialising in documentary, community-based investigative journalism and participatory media.  Spectacle has been documenting the changing landscape around Battersea Power Station for the past 15+ years.

Spectacle’s film work has been exhibited at galleries worldwide, including Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool. The Photographers Gallery, Institute of Contemporary Art, National Film Theatre in London. Glasgow Centre for Contemporary Art, National Architecture Institute Netherlands, Kunstverein Hamburg, Pianofabriek and “Bozar” Brussels.

It’s broadcast films include “Battle of Trafalgar”, (Winner of Prix du Public Nyon Film Documentaire), “The Truth Lies in Rostock” (Nyon Documentary Award Special Mention).  The Guantanamo films- “Outside The Law” &   “Shaker Aamer: a decade of injustice”.

 

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Do you have a view of Battersea Power Station?

Battersea Power Station

Do you have a view of Battersea Power Station from your flat window or balcony? We are looking for views of #BatterseaPowerStation for our film for the World Monument Fund.  As you may know the Battersea Power Station development means that many iconic views of the Power Station will be lost as the power station is surrounded by tall residential blocks. We are interested to get some shots of these views before they are gone so if you can help in any way please get in touch with Mark or Emily at bps@spectacle.co.uk

We would also like to hear from you if you have any stories about how the power station, past or present, has had an impact on your life.

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Mainstream media on Battersea Power Station’s financial and social unsustainability

Battersea Power Station, since the end of 2014, has been standing wounded with only three chimneys left, and we have not yet seen any sign that the Battersea Power Station Development Company is starting the rebuilding work on the SW chimney.

View from Battersea Park Station, taken by Spectacle on 23/02/2015

Battersea Power Station from Battersea Park Station. Image taken by Spectacle on 23/02/2015

Meanwhile, some of our worries about the social impact and the financial viability of the whole project have been shared by a number of different analysts.

For instance, our concerns about the financial viability of Big Bang Development grow stronger as main-stream financial newspapers, such as Bloomberg, have highlighted that after the positive performances of recent years, London’s house prices have now started going down.  Bloomberg states, in a recent article, that “prices in emerging prime London fell 2 percent in the final quarter of 2014, according to Douglas & Gordon” and that “the area, which includes the Nine Elms neighborhood, was the worst performer in “emerging prime” London last year, broker Douglas & Gordon Ltd. said”. “Overseas demand for prime London homes is cooling, and some upscale projects being marketed “have gone over to Asia and probably haven’t done as well as they would have” in early 2014” quoting Jack Simmons, head of U.K. residential development and investment at broker Cushman & Wakefield Inc.

This alarming report, suggesting that the degrading value of houses might scare investors and threaten the financial plan of big projects such as the one by Battersea Power Station Development Company, was corroborated in an article by The Telegraph. The Telegraph reports that properties in the Nine Elms area are already flipped, thrown on the market to make some gains, before even a single brick of the flats has been put in place. This circumstance seem to confirm our impressions, sharing with The Telegraph’s journalist the “concern that homes built in the early phase of the huge project, were mainly reserved by investors – who have waited for the market to pick up before “flipping” them – and overseas buyers”. Instead of sounding an alarm in the heads of Battersea Power Station Development Company, the same article tells us that a spokeswoman for the company said: “We launched phase one at Battersea Power Station over two years ago and we are pleased to see that the early pioneer purchasers, who helped to get this project off the ground have experienced good levels of growth”.

If fluctuations of the property market could turn investors away, the new strength of British Sterling on the foreign exchange market could cause even more troubles to South Asian Buyers. The Star, one of the most popular Malaysian news sites, published a page explaining how to deal with loans in foreign currencies to prevent investments, such as a flat in Battersea Power Station, turning disastrous by weaker local currencies.

Rahim & Co consultant, marketing (London properties), Guy Major says “It is ‘dangerous’ to have a mismatch between your ability to pay based in ringgit and a pound-denominated loan,” he says.

If our concerns about the finances of the project are aimed at putting question marks over the narrative used by big bang developers to sell their projects, other media apparently started sharing our worries about the social impact of this monster development. The Guardian came out recently with a long and quite critical article about Battersea Power Station, “the biggest building site in London, and one of the largest regeneration projects in Europe”. Significantly titling the article “Battersea is part of a huge building project – but not for Londoners”, the Guardian highlights the tendency of new developments in London to get higher – “Hong Kongification” as Tony Travers, director of the Greater London group at the London School of Economics, puts it.

The Guardian quotes Ravi Govindia, the Conservative leader of Wandsworth council  “Yes, some of the buildings will be tall, but there will be a distinctly London flavour. It’s going to be a place that people [will] enjoy living in.” Govindia says, adding that the project “will bring 25,000 permanent jobs plus 20,000 construction and engineering jobs during the building phase”), the article warns that building luxury flats for wealthy foreign buyers is exacerbating the housing problem for thousands of Londoners in need of homes.

On the other hand, Will Martindale, Labour MP candidate for Battersea, in a blog posted on The Huffington Post, shared his concerns (and some of his neighbor’s) about the way Battersea is changing: property prizes going well beyond local people’s budgets, riverfront views are blocked by multi-story buildings and very few new flats will eventually house locals while oversea investors and developers will make a fortune. As Will Martindale says “This is our riverfront. It’s part of our shared heritage, not simply a strip of real estate. We would do well to remember Battersea Council’s old motto: Not for you, not for me, but for us.”

At the moment, our impression is that it’s becoming ever more theirs…

 

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Battersea Power Station and the Great British Housing Crisis

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism recently released an accurate and in-depth research about the British Housing Crisis.  The investigation is focused on the ever growing lack of social and affordable houses in UK, revealing some of the tricks developers use to overcome the commitments they are requested to fulfill by local authorities. The article is largely based on development schemes in the socalled Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area (VNEB). In these areas Spectacle has been engaged for years producing media and informative blogs about the social and economic flaws in “big bang” speculative developments and how they conflict with meaningful and sensitive architectural preservation and thriving urban environments. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s authors give interesting keys to understand the dynamics behind big projects, the contradictions of the property market and its impact on Britain’s most vulnerable people. We warmly recommend it.

Click on the image to read the article

This is how developers advertise their scheme on the fences around Battersea Power Station

This is the hilarious way developers choose to advertise their scheme on Battersea Power Station

 

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Battersea Power Station: ghost flats worth £1.8bn!

Versione in Italiano

We learned from the pages of London Evening Standard that “More than £1.8 billion worth of homes have been sold at Battersea Power Station since they went on the market in January last year”. None on these flats have been built yet.

Apparently most of this £1.8 billion came from the fortunate global launch that Battersea Power Station Development Company organized last month.  As we already suspected, the search for overseas investors has not been affected by fear of the chinese property bubble bursting – the due date of which is still under discussion among financial analysts.  The threat of a Mansion Tax did not slow the rush of foreigners to use their deep pockets in order to get their piece of Battersea Power Station. Even if the London property market, as shown in Estate Agents Knight Frank’s report (see below), has appeared to slow down in the last few months, off-plan sales seem to work pretty well.Taking Battersea Power Station as reference for this trend, The Newstatesman  recently reported that:

“Off-plan profits hit the headlines last week with reports that a studio flat in Battersea power station, sold for close to £1m in the spring, is now due to go back on the market for up to £1.5m before it has even been built.”

Before anything has even been built, and while our concerns about the “Big Bang” business model of monstrous development projects are all to be proven erroneous, Battersea Power Station Development Company has actually done what all Battersea Power Station’s previous developers have already proven to be masters at: demolition!

Battersea Power Station: photograph taken by Spectacle on 08/12/2014

The first chimney of Battersea Power Station is gone. In the next weeks we will probably see it to come slowly back to a new life while the other three will start coming down all at once. We hope that the £1.8 billion will give Battersea Power Station Development Company enough energy to prove that, other than demolitions, they are good at building too.

 

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