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No More Pigs
September 27, 2010 4:08 PM   Subscribe

The hidden wonders of a British landmark. Long before Pink Floyd floated a pig above its 340ft chimneys, Battersea Power Station was an iconic landmark, described from the start as a 'temple of power': a brick cathedral to rank alongside St Paul's. Its four-pillared outline is as familiar as the building's sad decline since being decommissioned in 1983. After numerous failed redevelopment attempts from various owners, Battersea Power Station is now on the 'buildings at risk' register. Photographer Peter Dazeley set out to document the legendary building as part of a personal project. [via]
posted by netbros (32 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Probably best known as a location in Doctor Who.
posted by Faze at 4:18 PM on September 27, 2010


Another Tate? I don't see how the building can be remarkably re-purposed.
posted by parmanparman at 4:22 PM on September 27, 2010


A really beautiful building and the photos of the interior are amazing. The should rent it out as is, I'd love to have control room A as my office. I'll be sad to see it go, Art Deco masterpieces are getting fewer and farther between.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:26 PM on September 27, 2010


Beautiful building, but at first I thought this was about this seafood place in Providence, the Battersea Frying Station.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 4:27 PM on September 27, 2010


Yes, we need to preserve everything Art Deco just so that we have some sort of proof that not every building has to be a huge featureless box. More Art Deco please.
posted by GuyZero at 4:28 PM on September 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


For some reason - I thought this building had been converted to the Tate Modern - D'oh!! But surely the same conversion could happen for this iconic space. Doesn't the Queen have a few baubles that her subjects could have a nice gawk at?
posted by helmutdog at 4:29 PM on September 27, 2010


Beautiful building, but at first I thought this was about this seafood place in Providence, the Battersea Frying Station.

Do you have some pictures of the interior of the frying station? If it looks like this place, I'm going.
posted by Lukenlogs at 4:56 PM on September 27, 2010


Battersea Power Station is awesome, but I'm an even bigger fan of Battersea Galactica.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:05 PM on September 27, 2010


I love this building, it's one of my favourite London sights. it should totally be re purposed as the Ark of the Arts and most definitely not as an amusement park, which I understand was one proposal for it.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 5:08 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


For some reason - I thought this building had been converted to the Tate Modern - D'oh!! But surely the same conversion could happen for this iconic space.

The two buildings are not dissimilar - Bankside Power Station and Battersea were both designed by Giles Gilbert Scott (who also designed the red telephone box, amongst other things). But Battersea would require a huge amount of work to make into any kind of serviceable space: it hasn't had a roof since the 1980s. I pass it every day on the train on my commute into work and always get wistful staring at the shell of the building.

On a different note surely the most iconic use of Battersea Power Station is in that episode of MacGyver with Brian Blessed as the co-star? I remember seeing it on some obscure TV station when I had just moved to London and was living in Battersea, and was so excited I had to shout to my flatmate to come in and watch it. Good times...
posted by greycap at 5:15 PM on September 27, 2010


"All over Battersea some hope and some despair." -S.P.M.
posted by punkfloyd at 5:17 PM on September 27, 2010


Do you have some pictures of the interior of the frying station? If it looks like this place, I'm going.

Waiting Room

The Kitchen

Lobster tank

The Front Desk

I'm going to be honest, it isn't very family friendly. They make a mean whiskey sour, though.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 5:57 PM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Whenever I see beautiful industrial buildings like this, I always wonder: "How did they manage it?"

Not in the literal, engineering sense -- it's fairly clear how it's built, looks like reinforced concrete over a steel or iron frame -- but how did they manage to sneak something so beautiful past the penny-pinchers?

Look at a modern power plant. You would need to try pretty hard to build something uglier than that. It's just a big sheet-metal box, or rather a series of them sort of haphazardly stacked up, with a smokestack tacked onto one end. It's the cheapest covering for the plant's innards, I'm sure -- or else they would have done something else.

Occasionally you'll find purely functional spaces which end up being beautiful unintentionally, sometimes because of the pure functionalism. But more often, old industrial buildings were not built just as weather-coverings for the machines and people inside, they were built with a clear desire to be pleasant to look at and work in.

I don't know whether it's an issue of pride in industry becoming a sin or merely the triumph of modern accounting, but we seem generally unable to cough up the extra few dollars it would take to make modern industrial structures anything more than mere containers.

What precisely that says about us I'm not sure, but I can't find a way of looking at it that's particularly flattering.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:12 PM on September 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


Exciting cognitive dissonance going on here, as an article from the Daily Mail meets with approval (including mine) on MetaFilter.

Santral Istanbul is also a good refit of an old urban power station. (Some slightly annoying Flash in the website, though.)
posted by lapsangsouchong at 6:16 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe nowadays even better known as that building from Children of Men.

posted by escabeche at 6:25 PM on September 27, 2010


but how did they manage to sneak something so beautiful past the penny-pinchers?
Perhaps, at the beginning of the 20th century electricity was revered, this supernatural element that would carry us from the dark ages into a bright, warm future of leisure. God-like.
Hence the fonts of its creation should be grand, like temples. We've since gotten a bit more blasé about electricity.
posted by Flashman at 6:45 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe nowadays even better known as that building from Children of Men.

The music for the entrance theme being The Court of The Crimson King.
posted by ovvl at 6:47 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe nowadays even better known as that building from Children of Men.

Is that the building where some sad stuff happened, and then Clive Owen looked concerned?
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 6:53 PM on September 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kadin2048 - your comment brought to mind Elvis Costello's "Hoover Factory".

Five miles out of London on the Western Avenue
Must have been a wonder when it was brand new
Talkin' 'bout the splendour of the Hoover factory
I know that you'd agree if you had seen it too

posted by davebush at 7:28 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yup. Elvis Costello had it right about the Hoover building.
posted by motty at 7:38 PM on September 27, 2010


A few years ago, San Francisco also had an interesting, huge, historically significant but rundown building that it couldn't find a use for. It was eventually purchased by a fetish video company, which was controversial at the time but less so now that they've been there a while. Maybe Battersea will also find someone to use it as-is.
posted by cali at 8:01 PM on September 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Battersea Power Station also served as the façade for the Victory Mansions in the film version of 1984. Gives me the creeps every time I see it. (The movie and the station.)
posted by kawika at 12:17 AM on September 28, 2010


A really beautiful building and the photos of the interior are amazing. The should rent it out as is, I'd love to have control room A as my office. I'll be sad to see it go, Art Deco masterpieces are getting fewer and farther between.

Sadly most of the building is a shell. The main turbine hall (as-was) is completely open to the sky.

Frankly I'm boggled that no developer has been able to make it work, even if they only used the substantial grounds around the station itself, which used to be the railyard for coal arriving to power the station. It's a big area.

You can see Battersea from all over London - it'd be a crime for it to be demolished. That said, it's a crime to have left it to decay for this long.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:25 AM on September 28, 2010


I took some video of the power station a few days ago during an open weekend. (Short, 18 second video)

It's a huge, huge building.
posted by DanCall at 1:39 AM on September 28, 2010


Frankly I'm boggled that no developer has been able to make it work

The problem is the building itself can't be knocked down and it is basically derelict. I imagine the costs of essentially rebuilding it are prohibitive or counterproductive. As I understand it, the towers are basically fit only to collapse.

Anyway - Americans will see a wee bit more of the Power Station than they used to - the American Embassy is moving down the road. And when it does, it will spur help investment in arguably London's prime brownfield site around Nine Elms. When, if, it gets a footbridge to connect with Pimlico on the other side you're looking at a lot of expensive housing.

Also, just down the river, the smaller and less well known Lots Road Power Station is also up for development - a much easier proposition.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:32 AM on September 28, 2010


Whenever I see beautiful industrial buildings like this, I always wonder: "How did they manage it?"

Isn't a big part of it that we still really like brick aesthetically, and that's all they had back then?
posted by smackfu at 5:38 AM on September 28, 2010


Being Irish I can't wait to claim my share of Battersea Power Station now that we NAMA own it.
posted by nfg at 6:21 AM on September 28, 2010


Anyway - Americans will see a wee bit more of the Power Station than they used to - the American Embassy is moving down the road. And when it does, it will spur help investment in arguably London's prime brownfield site around Nine Elms. When, if, it gets a footbridge to connect with Pimlico on the other side you're looking at a lot of expensive housing.

REO, TfL and the local councils have also been in conversation for a couple of years now about extending the Northern Line to Battersea. If they ever manage to agree who would pay for what, then that'll drastically increase the chances of Battersea Power Station resurfacing as posh flats as well.
posted by garius at 6:50 AM on September 28, 2010


Isn't a big part of it that we still really like brick aesthetically, and that's all they had back then?

I think that's part of it, but it's only part. If you look at this 1866 brick mill complex (Ponemah Mills in Taftville CT; here's how they looked in 1918), it's not just that it's built out of brick. There's a lot of stuff on that building that doesn't need to be there, if you're viewing the building solely as a weatherproof covering for the interior. Even with lower 19th-century labor costs, that detail work cost somebody money.

There are modern commercial and industrial structures made out of brick, but they're pretty plain in comparison. Granted the walls aren't typically load-bearing, but there seems to have been a pretty dramatic change in willingness to pay for aesthetics.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:06 AM on September 28, 2010


Small annoyance, but sites like http://www.battersea-powerstation.com/#/home that redirect to themselves thus rendering the browser's back button useless really really really really shit me.
posted by the noob at 7:28 AM on September 28, 2010


I don't understand how such a huge investment can be allowed to crumble.
posted by Goofyy at 11:34 PM on September 28, 2010


I love this building too. My grandad was a gaffer on the scaffolding when it was built. (That, and the WWII Mulberry harbours.) I grew up in East Kent, with lots of family in London, and as a little kid traveling up, the first sight of Grandad's Power Station meant that we'd reached the magical world of tube rides and black cabs.
posted by reynir at 2:27 PM on October 1, 2010


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