Friday, October 27, 2006

A Happy Ending for Battersea?

Parkview International deserves thanks for opening Battersea Power Station to the public (for the first time ever).

It is currently hosting the “China Power Station: Part 1”(until 5 November).

Go see it at all costs. It may be a last chance.

The artworks are completely overshadowed by the grandeur and pathos of the building itself. A vast and austere Art Deco concoction, it is clearly in very bad shape indeed, far far worse than one would anticipate from the usual long-distance views. Being inside is like being inside some fabulous wreck (the Titanic springs to mind): rusting riveted girders dimly emerge through the dripping gloom; imaginations can run riot on the crackled antique paint textures and ancient, cryptic signs in ancient fonts. This whole place is on the cusp of history: an anachronistic, discredited technology housed in a huge, stricken and seemingly hopeless brick and steel temple. Can one imagine Angkor Wat being redeveloped for contemporary use? Pompeii?

The very beauty of the building, designed by Giles Gilbert Scott in 1929, was inspired by public concern the new station would be an eyesore. Now that its function is lost, the beauty remains as a poison chalice. So seductive and demanding, yet it has already finished one developer. And now Parkview International is drinking – or appears to be drinking – deep.

Battersea Power Station is as important to London as the Chrysler Building or Brooklyn Bridge is to New York, the Colisseum to Rome or the Eiffel tower to Paris. And yet Battersea is more vulnerable than all of these, as apart from vacant urban symbolism its fabric is compromised and it has yet to find a new reason to be.

It is shocking indeed that given this vulnerability, Wandsworth Council and English Heritage have foolishly, rashly given Parkview permission to demolish and rebuild the four chimneys, despite an engineering report saying they are repairable. Parkview is headquartered in Hong Kong and registered in the British Virgin Islands – pretty much impossible legally to make them rebuild four useless chimneys if they decide they can’t afford it. And without the chimneys the station is one step closer to total demolition. The empty site would be worth many, many, many millions.

Go see it before 5th November.

For more, check out the Wikipedia article.


Anonymous said...

you have a very interesting blog here. nicely done. :)

Hedgie said...

Thank you!