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.

pbs model

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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Battersea Power Station: A Mighty Fall

Jeff Nevil has produced this insightful presentation, exploring and discussing the history and potential future of the iconic, Battersea Power Station.

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Battersea Power Station: Out of the frying pan into the fire

The horror story continues…

Nightmare on Nine Elm Street

The abysmal Vinoly plans for Battersea Power Station that we had all hoped were finally dead and buried with the collapse of previous owners REO has come back to haunt all who care about the beautiful building and the quality of life for all those living in its shadow and the surrounding area.

Just when you thought it was safe Architect Viñoly has been hired as “creative brain” behind developer Mike Hussey’s plan for a new stadium for Chelsea football club. AAAHHHHHHGGGGG……

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Your TV tonight: The undead Grey Men of Battersea Power Station

On ITV’s London Tonight and LBC radio you can watch or hear Ravi Govindia, the leader of Wandsworth Council who, as former cabinet member for “strategic planning and transportation”, is particularly responsible for the failed private-property owner led regeneration of the area,  trying to defend the borough’s pathetic policy towards the obviously flawed and greedy plans for Battersea Power Station.

Only a few days ago George Osborne and Boris Johnson were doing their best to puff the disastrous scheme which is now as all but dead and buried by the creditors calling in their loans.


For the Battersea Power Station Community Group (BPSCG) it is just another “new beginning” as the fourth developer limps off stage to boos and jeers.

Keith Garner is also interviewed calling for the whole site to be put into public ownership for a sensible, viable, gradual development of the historic and beautiful building and its surrounding site. An ideal exhibition for industrial power ( see our previous blogs). Keith cites the difference in the approach of Southwark to the other Gilbert-Scott designed river front power station, the highly successful Tate Modern. Through partnerships and a gradual, planned development it shows what Battersea residents could have had these past 30 years.

WATCH: ITV London Tonight on Battersea Power Station debt

Spectacle’s crew were there today too and will be posting soon the bits of the interviews the broadcaster left out. Including an hilarious episode where the owners try to stop ITV filming by shutting the gates. Perhaps their last act.

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Creditors call in Battersea Power Station debts

For Sale

 

NAMA and Lloyds  are owed 502 million pounds ($786 million) by the owners of Battersea Power Station and they want their money back. Now.

Despite REO’s attempt at positive spin (see below) their ridiculous plan is over and it is about time the heritage site was brought into public ownership and restored as a site for Industrial Power.

 

Real Estate Opportunities plc (the Company)
Battersea Power Station facilities:

The Company announces that certain subsidiaries (BPS Subsidiaries) of Battersea Power Station Shareholder Vehicle Limited, the holding company of Battersea Power Station formed for the purposes of the restructuring that was announced in April 2011 and which is 54% owned by the Company, have received demand for repayment from Bank of Scotland plc, as agent for the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) and Lloyds Banking Group the (together the senior lenders), under the senior facilities advanced in respect of the Battersea Power Station site, aggregating approximately £324m, and from Oriental Property Limited under the facilities advanced by it to the BPS Subsidiaries, aggregating approximately £178m. The BPS Subsidiaries are currently not in a position to satisfy these demands for repayment.  The Company has also been advised that NAMA  and Lloyds Banking Group have applied to the English court for the appointment of administrators to certain of the BPS  Subsidiaries and that a hearing for this purpose is to be held on 12 December 2011.
The Company remains in discussions which may result in the disposal of the group’s interest in the Battersea Powerstation site and repayment of associated liabilities.  However, there is no certainty that any such transaction will be effected.
The Company’s other assets, which are situated in Ireland, are unaffected by the above developments. The Company has recently received term sheets from NAMA, the principal lender in respect of its Irish assets, indicating NAMA’s continued support for the Company’s business in Ireland.

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Why the Northern Line extension will never happen

The recent PR buff on Battersea Power Station has left us no closer to a solution to the issue. Chancellor George Osborne and Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, have been talking about the Northern Line extension and oligarch Roman Abramovich has received media attention by saying that he’s thinking about moving Chelsea Football Club‘s home ground South East of the site.

Extending the Northern line from Kennington to Battersea is one thing – funding the project is another. During the Autumn Statement in the Commons today, Osborne stated that the government will back the project – but did not mention with how much. He also called for “a developer” to contribute to the project and develop the power station site before a deadline of 2013.

The project is still heavily reliant on private funding and current owners Treasury Holdings is going to struggle. A scheme this size, roughly three times the size of Canary Wharf if you include Nine Elms, is always going to be difficult to get up and running at the best of times. But in a recession..?

Giving the Northern Line extension green light and talking up the moribund and equally fantastic Rafael Viñoly’s nightmare vision of gloomy glass canyons, is certainly invaluable property pump priming. And it’s hard to imagine why the Conservatives are so happy to collude in this theatre, given that they held their 2010 election campaign launch under the same chimneys which Battersea Power Station’s owner Richard Barrett, one of the co-founders of Treasury Holdings, once said “would fall in strong wind.”

Recently, Tory dominated Wandsworth Borough Council’s planning committee gave Treasury Holdings permission to demolish the power station’s chimneys on the grounds that they were unsafe. However, many experts disagree and local residents believe that, like the roof which was never replaced, the chimneys will never be re-built once they are gone. If Treasury Holdings really believe that the chimneys are precarious, it shows a very cavalier approach to the health and safety of Her Majesty’s Opposition, as there wasn’t a hard hat in sight.

The Battersea Power Station should become a World Heritage site for industrial power. The site has a unique Victorian Pumping Station with site of the biggest Cornish engine of its day. It also has spectacular gasometers dating from 1910 as well as, of course, the beautiful coal-powered art deco power station.

It would be nice to see Abramovich spend some of his heard-earned billions derived from oil, show some philanthropic decency and rescue the site from the clutches of the myopic grey men. They would simply turn the site into just another crass, desolated, windswept and empty river-front development along the banks of the Thames.

The Big Society was prime minister David Cameron’s flagship policy idea for the 2010 election campaign and has stated that it’s his “mission.” One may ask, if one of the world’s richest men isn’t going to chip in – then who will?

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Battersea Power Station development architect Vinoly inspired by Regency Terraces

Rafael Vinoly claims his designs for the monstrous and greedy buildings that will obscure and dwarf Battersea Power Station are inspired by Regency Terraces such as those around Regents Park. This suggests that he has never actually seen Regency buildings or he has a post-ironic sense of humour.

Vinoly's "Regency" terraces for Battersea Power Station

Vinoly's "Regency" terraces for Battersea Power Station

His designs have none of the sense of scale, proportion or elegance of Regency architecture. No thought has been given to how they interface with the street level. They are monotonous and ugly. They are designed to be the maximum height possible, level with the “shoulder” of the power station, thereby making the beautiful Power Station almost completely hidden from view except from across the river.

Vinoly's Regency inspired sense of scale

Vinoly's Regency inspired sense of scale

It is hard to imagine buildings less Regency in style, is it possible that he was mistakenly looking at pictures of rejected hotel developments in Marbella or Malaga?

Vinoly's tasteful "Regency inspired" concrete block

Vinoly's tasteful "Regency inspired" concrete block

Note how the much trumpeted “public space” around the Power Station is in fact water and therefore unusable, a trick learned from Centre Point.

If you would like to object to these plans you have until January 31st 2010 click here for more details.

For more information about Spectacle’s Battersea Power Station project including video interviews.

To read more blogs about Battersea Power Station

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