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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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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Oberhausen ‘Gasometer’ as an example for alternative use of Battersea gasholder

Battersea’s ‘listed’ gasholders are being demolished to make way for new homes, shops and business space. Wandsworth council approved the demolition of this and three other adjacent gasholders in Battersea in January 2013, as part of the regeneration of Nine Elms.

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The Evening Standard reported the following on this:

”Objectors say that alternative uses for the site should be examined. Architect Keith Garner says: “In the German city of Oberhausen, there is a gasholder with the same features and it has been transformed into a museum and a centre for art.”

The Gasometer in Oberhausen, Germany, is a former gas holder which has been converted into an exhibition space. It has hosted several large scale exhibitions, including two by Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The Gasometer is an industrial landmark, and an anchor point of the European Route of Industrial Heritage and the Industrial Heritage Trail.

In 1992 the city council of Oberhausen, with a margin of 1 vote decided to acquire the gasholder, gasometer in German, and convert it to an exhibition space. At the time, plans were being developed for building CentrO on an adjacent plot, and IBA Emscher Park planned to use the Gasometer for its exhibition. Ownership transferred to the city of Oberhausen, with Ruhrkohle AG paying 1.8 million DM in saved demolition costs to the city.

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Hopefully the owners of the Battersea site will reconsider the usage of the gasholders for a similar purpose. Unfortunately, work (on the Prince of Wales Drive) has already began on tearing the disused holders down and they are planned to be gone by the end of 2014.  The owners have planning permission to demolish the listed Victorian Pump House at any time.

Click Battersea Power Station for more blogs
See our Battersea Power Station project pages for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

For more on Christo and Jeanne-Claude. visit Artsy Christo page

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Opponents of the Northern Line Extension, and why they’re right

At the start of this year, January 28, there was already opposition against the extension of the Northern Line. Liberal Democrats in Lambeth have suggested a Docklands-style light rail or monorail link between Waterloo, Vauxhall and Battersea as an alternative. Local campaigners also question the transport benefits of adding an extra branch to an already complicated and overcrowded rail route like the Northern line.

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“The only way to relieve the existing crush let alone cope with the massive influx of fresh commuters being generated by the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea new town is by a completely separate system,” say the Lambeth Liberal Democrats in an unsigned comment piece published on the party website.”

”We’ve suggested it before and we’ll say it again, there needs to be a thorough appraisal of a light rail elevated transport system like the Docklands Light Railway.”

”Common sense suggests that this would be massively cheaper than a deep-bored tube line and it could even be a 21st-century monorail system rather than the slightly Trumpton-esque DLR.”

”It could also run all the way to Waterloo – maybe attached to the existing railway viaduct – and later linked to the DLR. After all there’s massive regeneration going on south of the river all the way from Wandsworth to Southwark.”

See the full article.

More recently, the Guardian reported about the concerns of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home:

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home is demanding Transport for London (TfL) reconsiders plans for the Northern line extension over fears it will force its animals to be relocated.

The rescue home, in Battersea Park Road, Battersea, is within touching distance of a new station planned to open at Battersea Power Station.

Chiefs at the charity have said the welfare of the animals could be affected during construction, while the extension would mean the rescue home could not expand in the future.

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The Evening Standard reports that the rescue home has joined the Beefeater Gin distillery in nearby Kennington, to write to the Transport Secretary opposing being made to sell large swaths of property. It would have to vacate 70 per cent of its site on a 14-day notice, it says, under legislation proposed by TfL.

In the letter to Patrick McLoughlin, seen by property website CoStar News, home chief executive Claire Horton calls TfL’s sweeping powers “excessive”, adding that the transport body “has insufficient understanding of the complexity and sophistication of the facilities at our building”.

Chivas Brothers, operators from the Beefeater distillery, has also written objecting to TfL’s plans to compulsorily purchase land for a ventilation shaft. The company says dangers posed by the construction would prevent it operating on the site.

Enough reasons to reconsider the Northen Line Extension, so it seems.

Michèle Dix, managing director of planning for TfL, said: “We are working through a Transport and Works Act Order process and are not expecting a decision on the Northern line extension from the Government until summer 2014.

Click Battersea Power Station for more blogs
See our Battersea Power Station project pages for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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