Battersea Power Station – from no mans land to architectural extravaganza

 

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The iconic Battersea Power Station is at the heart of Rafael Vinoly’s master plan – a massive “regeneration” scheme for Battersea.

The riverfront district of Southwest London around the Battersea Power Station will soon be unrecognizable due to a huge “regeneration” scheme. The Battersea Power Station which has remained largely unused since its closure in 1983 is at the heart of this luxury housing development financed by a Malaysian real estate investment group Eco World.

This regeneration scheme has recently hit the headlines with its culmination London’s first ‘sky pool’, a swimming pool which has been planned to bridge two 10-storey buildings in Embassy Garden’s as a part of the Battersea “redevelopment” plan.

However Nine Elms ‘sky pool’ has not been acclaimed by everyone. A private swimming pool sky bridge in the middle of London’s affordable housing crises has stormed critique as a symbol of rising inequality. The recent newspaper headlines show the other side of the story of the highest residential swimming pool in London:

The Independent wrote: “Nine Elms ‘sky pool’: luxury London flat owners  will be able to swim while literally looking down on everyone else”.

In addition, The Guardian stated: “The ‘sky pool’ is just the start: London prepares for a flood of bathing oligarchs”.

The planned luxury flats are being criticized for being aimed at wealthy foreign buyers taking advantage of the rising value of property in London. In January 2013 the first residential apartments went on sale and now all of the Thames-facing apartments have already been sold, way before the project was even launched.

Last year the reselling cycle made possible that the flats with starting prices from £1 million were on sale later on the year for £1.5 million. However the rapidly increasing prices are only a one side of the issue. The fundamental conflict lies on the fact that only 16 % of the planned new homes (560 of the total of 3,444) will be affordable housing.

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The “redevelopment” of Battersea would change the Landscape of London – the iconic Power Station would be surrounded by huge building blocks.

Since the power station ceased generating electricity in the 80s, it has become one of the best known landmarks in London. As the largest brick building in Europe, the iconic power station was listed on the World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund in 2004.

During the past 50 years, numerous redevelopment plans for the Battersea Power Station have been introduced. However these projects have usually failed due to a lack of funding. In 2010 Real Estate Opportunities were granted permission to redevelop the power station. This resulted in the creation of the current master plan for Battersea, an architect Rafael Vinoly’s design which gained planning consent from Wandsworth Council in 2011.

However, Vinoly does not have exactly a clean architectural record. According to the BBC the ‘Walkie Talkie’ skyscraper on Fenchurch Street in London had been blamed for reflecting light and causing a ‘death ray’ with a high temperature. The 37-storey tower designed by Rafael Vinoly was claimed to damage vehicles by melting parts of them and even causing fires.

Last week Building Design magazine announced that Walkie Talkie, nicknamed because of its bulbous, curving shape was voted for the worst building in London. Building Design’s annual Carbuncle Cup sparked an online debate including not so flattering comments about the building such as one reader commenting: “I now have a new personal goal: to live long enough to see this building demolished”.

Now the planned Phase 3 with proposals for the future of Battersea and the power station has been revealed by the Battersea Power Station Development Company, a Malaysian consortium in charge of the project. The Phase 3 of the project will provide 1,310 residential homes with only 103 of them being affordable which is less than 8 % of the houses that are planned to be build.

Will this solve the growing divide in the London housing market? Very unlikely. So far it seems that the beneficiaries are the wealthy few who the housing crisis doesn’t hit with its sky-high prices.

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A brief update on Battersea Power Station and the Nine Elms development

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As construction work progresses on the Battersea Power Station site, the Battersea Power Station Development Company’s (BPSDC) ambitious plans for the project appear to be moving rapidly forwards too; last week it was revealed that the company have made an official bid for the proposed Crossrail 2 line to serve the location. An extension of the Northern Line, Charing Cross Branch, is already planned (and will be partially financed by Sime Darby, the Malaysian consortium behind the Battersea Power Station Development Company) from Kennington to the Power Station. The Evening Standard reports that TfL is citing this as a reason to distance itself from the proposal, insisting Battersea Power Station will already be adequately connected.

Meanwhile, on the ground Everyman continue to lease an area in front of the Power Station to screen films and sell expensive, ‘ethnic’ food in the evenings from Thursday to Sunday. Last week our interns, Charlotte and Marta, risked death by falling chimney chunk to check out the event and sneak some surreptitious footage. Surprisingly they survived, reporting only giant Jenga pieces flying around.

Elsewhere, on the neighbouring Nine Elms site, all-consuming construction work has spilled out onto the Thames Path, limiting access to Tideway Village, a floating community of houseboats now overhung by the Riverlight development buildings.

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Battersea Power Station added to World Monuments Watch 2014

Finally somebody else noticed the endangered condition of Battersea Power Station.

And it’s even better than just noticing it, the Battersea Power Station will be added to the World Monuments Fund’s list of cultural heritage in danger for 2014.
The Power Station was already listed on the 2004 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund. So the inclusion also marks the 10th anniversary since the building was first included.

BPSderelict01

Hopefully this happening will draw attention to the continuing failure of a succession of private owners – mostly foreign based – together with Wandsworth Council and English Heritage, to see that the building is properly looked after and given appropriate new lease of life. We also hope that inclusion in the World Monuments Watch 2014 will help to bring about a new and better approach to the preservation of this important building.

Ten years ago, we were told by then owner Parkview that inclusion in the World Monuments Watch was unnecessary and they said: ”Plans for the restoration of this landmark are already well underway” (AJ 02.10.03).   But since 2004 there has been no progress at Battersea Power Station, which has been allowed to deteriorate further.

Parkview sold to Irish developers Treasury Holdings in 2006 which also made no progress and went bankrupt in 2012.  The current owners – a Malaysian consortium – propose to surround Battersea Power Station with blocks of flats up to 18 storeys high, obscuring the famous London landmark from most directions.

The consortium justify the excessive height of the towers by saying this is necessary to fund the restoration of the grade II* listed building.

We are calling for a different approach with ownership of Battersea Power Station transferred to a trust to be repaired using funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other sources.  (There are precedents for this: the former Bankside Power Station became Tate Modern with £50m of lottery money and £60m of private money.)

The consortium can develop the flat land at the back (the old South Lambeth Goods Yard site) and develop the unlisted parts of Battersea Power Station itself on a leasehold basis.  But key views of Battersea Power Station must be preserved and there should be free public access to the listed interiors.

The consortium also proposes to carry out Parkview’s plan to demolish the chimneys. This despite an authoritative engineering report jointly commissioned by the Twentieth Century Society, World Monuments Fund and ourselves in 2005 that showed that the case for demolition is not proved.  We fear that the consortium will take the chimneys down and will then invent a reason not to put them back up. They must be stopped.

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38,000 people visited Battersea Power Station during London Open House, far more than any other building taking part. It is bizarre and anomalous that this hugely popular building has not benefited from Heritage Lottery Fund largesse since the lottery was established in 1995.   We call on English Heritage to take the lead in rectifying this situation.

Battersea Power Station has been described as “… one of the supreme monuments of twentieth century Britain”.  Foreign speculators can no longer be trusted with this important building which must be repatriated forthwith and repaired with public money.

Click Battersea Power Station for more blogs
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Battersea Power Station Community Group has been campaigning since 1983 to save the listed building. To make a donation click here.

The Battersea Files by Eclipse films – Kevin Murphy  001 520 836 8792

Battersea Power Station Open House, a video by Spectacle.

Further Contact:

Brian Barnes MBE 020 7627 5821 / 07748 554866
Keith Garner 020 7585 0421 / 07876 163638
Ernest Rodker 020 8672 9698
Angela Parkinson 07931 814607
Kett Murphy (USA) 00 1 312 320 2471

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Will the chimneys be demolished all at once?

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There is a growing worry about the survival of the chimneys on Battersea Power Station. While expert opinion says they could be repaired the developers insist they have to be demolished and replaced with replicas. To avoid a repeat of the roof situation – ( see Demolition by Stealth)  where Bloom, a previous owner, took the roof off and then claimed he could not afford to replace it- planning permission was only given to demolish and rebuild the chimneys one by one, but now it seems like it is going to be a different story.

South London Press wrote an article in their newspaper this week about the fact that Battersea Power Station Development Company (BPSDC) are pushing towards knocking all the chimneys down at once. This action is something that English Heritage has warned about, since it might result in the chimneys never being rebuilt. Now on the other hand are Battersea Power Station Development Company, English Heritage and Wandsworth council in discussion about removing the clause in the building contract that requires the chimneys being removed and rebuilt one by one. English Heritage have not been able to reassure Battersea Power Station Community Group that they are not willing to change their view on the demolition of the chimneys.

Battersea Power Station Development Company was claiming in an exhibition last week that replacing the chimneys one by one would be too time consuming and would delay the rebuilding and restoration of the power station.

Wandsworth council claims that Battersea Power Station Development Company are examining different ways to rebuild the chimneys, but if there would be a change in the rebuilding strategy, it would have to be approved from the council in consultation with English Heritage.

Is there still not a risk that the chimneys will not be rebuilt if they are taken down all at once? Since it is cheaper, and possible, to repair them rather then to replace them, why would a company who are driven by profit decide to do something that is more expensive? Is it not proof enough to suspect that if the chimneys are gone all at once, there will be a great risk that they are never rebuilt, and rendered historically worthless the power station will be demolished as well.

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The new development in Battersea “is not” only for the rich

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The redevelopment of Battersea Power station has started and as we have written many times before, we are very concerned what the impact of the new neighborhood might have on the existing community.

30-40 percent of the flats have been sold to foreign investors, said the CEO of the new Battersea Power Station Development Company, Robert Tincknell to the Evening Standard last week. He did also mentioned that even if they were bought up by foreign investors, most of the investors will probably rent the flats to londoners. Something that would contribute to the vibrant community they hope to build. He also believes that the new development will be good for local business and that they are trying to be a part of the existing community.

The question still remains, would not a new development with expensive flats make the rent for existing houses higher? Tincknell says that he does not want Battersea Power Station to only be a place for the rich, but with the building plans they got, does it really sound like a place that is not only for the rich?

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The effects of palm oil-plantations has on Orangutans

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As we have written before, one of the new owners of Battersea Power Station, Sime Darby, is one of the worlds largest producers of Palm Oil and has been accused of illegal logging in the rain forest of Borneo and Sumatra as well as destroying the habitat of the endangered Orangutan.

The UK government has voted to offer subsides to power stations for the burning of large portions of palm oil and other biofuels. An increased demand for palm oil poses a big threat to rain forest and the Orangutans habitat.

Famous British author of fantasy novels, Terry Pratchett, visited Borneo in 1994 and fell in love with the Orangutans. Recently he returned for a BBC-documentary, Terry Pratchett: Facing Extinction, to see how the orangutans turned out.

To see what effects palm oil-plantations have on these endangered animals, please watch Terry Pratchett: Facing Extinction.

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Is the new Power Station scheme to change people’s quality of life?

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Rob Tincknell was interviewed in The Standard, Hong Kong’s biggest circulation English daily, about the plans for Battersea Power Station earlier this month. The power station was bought by three Malaysian companies, SP Setia, Sime Darby and Employee’s Provident Fund, in June last year. Tincknell said that the Malaysian’s vision for the site is better and different from the previous schemes, since this one is bigger and it is going to influence people’s quality of life.

Tincknell failed to mention that people’s quality of life is not only going to change for the better. Like we have mentioned before, many in the nearby communities are people on low incomes, and with a luxury estate just across the road from their homes the rents will rise and their quality of life will get worse.

Developers who want to attract really wealthy buyers have to build super-size apartment buildings with flats bigger then 6,000 square feet. The new penthouses in Battersea are planned to be 8,000 square feet, a size aimed to appeal more to the rich rather then the members of the Battersea community.

Tincknell also mentioned that no other plans have had a good solution to the public transport, but this scheme is planning to extend the Northern Line with public money, a 1 billion loan from UK government to Transport for London.

Two things are interesting with this statement. First of all, the previous owners of Battersea Power Station, who Tincknell also worked for, were the one’s who planned the extension of the Northern Line. Second, the owners were also suppose to pay for the extension as a contribution towards section 106- planning gain. Somewhere down the line the private-funding of the underground extension has turned in to a public-funding.

In the end Tincknell said that tourists want to come and see things that are authentic, and he means that the Power Station surrounded by ugly new buildings will give “authenticity” to the place. The only question is, will Battersea Power Station survive after its chimneys have been taken down to be rebuild, and how much of its authenticity will it be able to keep?

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“New” idea to turn Battersea Power Station in to a rollercoaster


The “new” idea of a roller coaster wrapped around the power station.


A similar idea but from 1988

Wired Magazine wrote earlier this week about who the Architecture firm Atelier Zündel Cristea (AZC) had won a competition hosted by ArchTriumph. The competition was to use the Power Station as inspiration to imagine a new Museum of Architecture.

AZC idea was to build a roller coaster around the Power station, add some new floors, have galleries inside and use the roof for exhibitions on architecture.

The idea of turning the Power Station into a roller coaster is not new. It is an old idea from Margaret Thatcher’s eighties that thankfully never happened.

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Palm oil biofuel is endangering the homes of Orangutans

The UK Government are proposing to support the burning of 500,000 tonnes of bio liquid per year in power stations. The largest part of this fuel will be palm oil, since it is the cheapest vegetable oil. One such Combined Heat and Power Station is planned for the Battersea Power Station site.

Even though some bio liquids can be good and environmentally friendly, the use of palm oil ruins the rainforest and the home of orangutan, an animal that today is nearly extinct.

We have written before how Sime Darby, new owners of Battersea Power Station, have carried out illegal logging in rain forests and endangered the homes of orangutans. So Sime Darby, with their production of palm oil,  is not only a threat for Battersea Power Station, but also for orangutans, the rainforest and in the end our environment.

 

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Should We Trust Sime Darby with Battersea Power Station?

The Malasian company Sime Darby is one of the worlds largest producers of Palm Oil. They also make up 40% of the comglomerate which now owns and is redeveloping the Batersea Power station and surounding area.

The company has been surrounded by controversy over its ethical practices. According to a recent Friends of the Earth report Sime Darby has carried out illegal logging in the rain forests of Borneo and Sumatra, home to endangerd speicies such as the Orangutan, to make way for palm oil plantations.
Sime Darbys Palm Oil opperations in Liberia are equally dubious with the company accused of swallowing up farmlands and forests used by local communities to sustain their livelihoods.
The company has been exposed for running an aggressive Greenwash campaign to try and “counter the negative perceptions surrounding the Palm Oil Industry”. The campaign involved the funding of a series of TV shows which were shown on CNBC and the BBC. The films where presented as current affairs when in fact the company which produced them; the FBC Group (ironically standing for Fact Based Media), where in the pay of Sime Darby and the Malaysian government.

Sime Darbys track record show it to be a company with little concern for local communities or the environment. They are driven only by profit and to this end will spend millions to appear “ethical” and “Sustainable” whilst continuing with business as usual. This film asks if we should trust such a company with the redevelopment of one of Britain’s most famous and Iconic buildings.

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