Mixed-use development brings new energy to Battersea Power Station
Iconic is a word that's often overused in architecture, but we have no issue with it being applied to London's Battersea Power Station. Almost 40 years after it was decommissioned, the famous Art Deco building has been painstakingly restored by WilkinsonEyre with impressive attention to detail, transforming it into a mixed-use development that retains much of its original character.
One of the largest brick buildings in Europe, Battersea Power Station was designed by architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. Its construction involved the use of roughly six million bricks and was carried out in two parts, with the first phase constructed in the 1930s and the last of its four chimneys then finally put into position in 1955.
During its heyday, Battersea Power Station's huge coal-powered steam turbines produced around a fifth of London's electricity, including Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament. Since it was decommissioned, its photogenic appearance has seen it in demand as a location for movies like The Dark Knight, The King's Speech, and Fast & Furious. It also famously appeared on Pink Floyd's Animals album.
After a series of zany ideas like adding a rollercoaster or a skyscraper fell through, work to turn it into a mixed-use development began in earnest in 2014. The chimneys were rebuilt using the original construction methods, with each one requiring 25,000 wheelbarrows of hand-poured concrete and 375 liters (almost 100 gallons) of paint. There's a novel twist too: one of the chimneys hosts an experience called Lift 109, which consists of a glass elevator that takes visitors up to a viewing point around 109 m (357 ft) in height.
Inside, Battersea Power Station's two Turbine Halls have been transformed into retail areas, while its control rooms are now bars/event spaces. The cavernous Boiler Room, meanwhile – which itself could fit the entirety of St. Paul's Cathedral – has been converted into an office space, with Apple taking up six floors, though the area is not yet complete. Elsewhere, the building hosts 254 luxury apartments, restaurants and cafes, more office space, a theater, and an events space, as well as significant landscaping.
WilkinsonEyre went to lot of effort honoring the industrial character of the interior. Approximately 1.8 million bricks were sourced from the original brickmakers, both Northcot Bricks in Gloucestershire and Blockleys in Shropshire. Additionally, color scanning and 3D printers were used to replicate the missing dials, knobs and levers in the old power station control rooms. Even fixtures like cranes have been left in place.
"It has been a privilege to restore and transform this iconic building, not only saving and celebrating the original features but creating interventions which bring the structure alive again," said Sebastien Ricard, Director at WilkinsonEyre. "I'm excited that these incredible volumes – the Turbine Halls and Boiler House – will, for the first time, be open to all. We've taken great inspiration from Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in everything from the drama and scale right through to individual material choices and I hope this is reflected in the experience of residents and visitors."
Battersea Power Station will open to the public for the first time on October 14. The brick building forms the heart of a larger £9 billion (roughly US$9.9 billion) regeneration project masterplanned by Rafael Viñoly Architects that's starting to look rather crowded and has seen the construction of Frank Gehry-designed housing, as well as a building by Foster + Partners, and a square by BIG, plus a London Underground station and other upcoming buildings nearby.