|May 2016, the view from the north-east side of Chelsea Bridge. Soewhere in there behind the flats is|
Battersea Power Station.
Those four great white chimneys rising out of the massive cathedral-like brick turbine hall are recognised anywhere on the planet, thanks to their appearance in numerous films and on certain album covers.
In recent months, however, you could do the classic drive south down Sloane Street and over Chelsea Bridge and fail to notice that you've just passed what's left of this icon.
|Heading east on the riverside path from Chelsea Bridge, you expect a fine close up view of the majestic facade of Battersea Power Station. Five years ago, yes. Today, this is what you see.|
Obviously, three of the four chimneys are missing, awaiting replacement with the replicas which the developers promise will be rebuilt to full height by late summer of this year. The one chimney in place is also a replica - the first one. It looks a lot like the old ones but the colour's wrong. All four new chimneys will be painted early in 2017, we're told.
So at least we'll be able to see those four off-white chimneys again, but that's about it for most of us. Whether driving past or on a train crossing the river into Victoria station, or from other parts of Battersea and south West London, the upper parts of those four chimneys are all we will see. Because the great bulk of the building will be screened by a densely-built labyrinth of enormous apartment blocks, to the west and south of the power station.
|The writing's on the wall for the future of this place -|
in this case a load of platitudinous developer-
speak about the importance of community, and how
they value this so much (see pics below)
The biggest is already nearly complete - "Circus West", a great wall of 865 luxury apartments right next to the railway track, which is already blocking the view of the power station for road and rail passengers. From the riverside path you can just about see the top of the one remaining chimney.
In the final phase 6 of the redevelopment, a similarly huge barrier block will go up to the east of the station as well, completing its enclosure to all except views from across the river.
|Words, words, words…so, the power station is going|
to be "browsable" is it? Can't wait.
Of course, if the power station had been even slightly looked after in the 30 years or so since it was decommissioned, the developers might not have had to do so much drastic surgery. This is a question which only structural engineers with access to this much fought-over building could ever answer.
|Er, was it not a real place before?|
Anyway, to get back to my initial point, isn't it odd, how with all this talk of the regeneration of the Battersea to Nine Elms riverside, with all those Asian billions invested into a forest of new high-rise luxury apartment blocks, that somehow we were hoodwinked into believing that at least the developers would be preserving and glorifying the power station itself.
By the time the development is complete - what, about 2025? – it seems likely that the re-fitted power station building will be almost completely hidden behind vast cliffs of luxury apartments. Just think of all those very rich people up on their roof gardens, floating in their infinity pools, sipping on their cocktails, worrying about their investments, then looking down on the building that used to dominate the skyline for so many people in and around London, and thinking….what a weird old pile of bricks. Why did they bother to keep it?
Here are a few photos showing how views of the "icon" have changed in the past two years.
|The power station in May 2012, when the area in front of the facade was turned into a Chelsea Flower Show|
overspill attraction. It was one of the last times the public could get this close to the building.
|6th November 2014: the SW chimney nibbled down to half-height, the cranes are gathering to prepare for building the Circus West blocks. And a full gasholder.|
|14 March 2014, Netherford Rd SW8. Typical view from the time when Battersea Power Station seemed to loom over every street in Battersea, Clapham North and Stockwell.|