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A journey through the Battersea Power Station designs that never were

Posted at 5:30 pm, September 7, 2012 in News
Artist's impression of Battersea Power Station redevelopment.

Work on Battersea Power Station’s redevelopment will allegedly start soon, after a two decade delay that would put the world’s most dedicated procrastinators to shame.

Built like a brick powerhouse, the station’s four chimneys of the apocalypse have steadfastly resisted countless attempts at redevelopment. It’s as much a monument to property moguls’ broken dreams as it is to oil-fired electricity generation.  So before we take a look at the latest proposal, join us on a tour of the power station plans that never quite got off the ground…

When the Power Station was closed back in 1983, the owners held a competition, seeking ideas for how the site could be used in the future.  The winning concept, pictured below, was a rather off-the-wall to idea to turn it into a museum of industry and London history. (Click on any image to enlarge it.)

Original winning plan for BSP from Peter Legge.

The proposal included a ship moored alongside and blimps floating above.

A cross-section of the proposal.

A cross-section of the proposal shows zones dedicated to Pepys’ London, the Great Fire, coal mining, the Blitz, a Dan Dare space ride and a mini-submarine ride.

But this plan was modified after the site was purchased for £1.5m in 1986, turning it into an enormous Alton Towers-style theme park. Thanks to a brochure shared with us by Towers Times/Russell Kilby, here’s what it would have looked like: (click on images to enlarge)

Inside Battersea Power Station (as theme park)

A view inside the power station, with an ice rink on the ground floor.

Ye Olde Shoppinge Malle in Battersea Power Station.

Viewed from above, you can see the ice rink surrounded by a Ye Olde Shoppinge Malle.

‘A magnificent ice rink in a natural island setting supported by extensive dancing fountains. Dual level viewing balconies throughout complex. A fantasy atmosphere – English nostalgia combined with futuristic shows, rides and theatres.’ - Development brochure

Charles Dickens Street

The brochure describes this area as “an authentic actual village providing a unique craft, shopping and entertainment experience complete with excellent restaurants,” arguably stretching the meaning of the words ‘authentic’ and ‘actual’.

Journey into tomorrow!

Simulators would allow children to JOURNEY! INTO! TOMORROW!

A ride based on a "journey through the British Empire."

I’m not sure this ‘ride through the history of the British Empire’ would’ve stood the test of time.

Planned rides at Battersea Power Station

Other attractions would’ve included a Balloon Ride, Magic Castle, Dancing Waters and Haunted Theatre.

The area around the power station was to be landscaped into gardens.

The area around the power station was to be landscaped into gardens.

The brochure continues: ‘At night, the gardens will come alive with twinkling lights. New rides, such as the Runaway train, the Flying Island, Jumbo Jet Coaster and a Rapids Ride will add to the festival atmosphere. The pleasure gardens will soon become the place for Londoners to stroll… Now Londoners will have a fabulous £200m up-market centre, in an area where they have traditionally taken their leisure, beside the Thames, with standards of presentation and quality among the finest in the world.’

Alas, they only got as far as removing the actual roof before costs went through the proverbial one – and the project had to be abandoned. The plan was changed to offices, shops and a hotel, but that didn’t work out either. In 1993 it was sold to a new consortium, who would cycle through an enormous range of designs over the coming years without really getting started on any of them. They kicked things off by inviting people to suggest designs – and one of the entries was this psychedelic hotel proposal:

Colourful hotel

By 2001, Arup’s site plan was allegedly on the cusp of commencing:

Arup's BPS site plan from 2001.

Two years later and with na’ry a JCB in sight, a new plan emerged to install a hotel in the roof:

Hotel in BPS roof.

Other sketches of the concept were a bit more… lively:

Upperworld, a hotel in the roof of Battersea Power Station.

This one should’ve been captioned ‘Oh sod it, you get the gist’:

Sketches for Upperworld hotel going a bit more mad.

In 2006 (the same year the site owners sold it on, 12 years after they bought it, for an extra £320m) Children of Men depicted it as an enormous, militarily-defended art archive in our dystopian future:

Battersea Power Station in Children of Men.

Time Out also took a look at the latest proposal on the table: ‘The building will become a shopping mall (1), with 40-50 cafés, bars and restaurants and 180 shops, plus nightclubs, comedy venues and a cinema. The 1930s Turbine Hall A will be used for more cosmopolitan shops; the later Turbine Hall B, on the west side, for cutting-edge labels.’

Here’s a sketch of the retail area:

Jenny Jones plan for BSP retail zone, 2006.

Apparently that still wasn’t quite right, so in 2008, new architects were brought on board. The interior of the power station was to become a light, airy space:

Interior of BPS under redevelopment.

Or was it going to become a garden? At this point, we’re starting a bit confused…

A roof garden in the 2008 BPS site design.

Outside the station building, this site plan featured a huge glass chimney, which, at 300m, would’ve been roughly the same height as the Shard:

A 300m high glass chimney at the Battersea Power Station

Pretty big.

But the Mayor’s office didn’t like that very much, so eventually, it too disappeared from plans, as this 2009 site plan shows:

2009 Vinoly proposal for Battersea Power Station site, now sans-chimney

Fast forward another three years to February 2012, and surprise surprise, it was back to the drawing board as the developers gave up and put the site up for sale. Chelsea Football Club proposed turning it into a new stadium:

Chelsea FC's proposal for Battersea Power Station

Chelsea FC stadium at Battersea Power Station proposal

Terry Farrell, despairing at the repeated failure of over-ambitious proposals, suggested removing the two building’s two long sides and turning the site into a park:

Terry Farrell's proposal to incorporate Battersea Power Station into a park.

But the successful bidders’ plan is probably the most conventional yet: some apartments, retail, office space, and a nice riverside park for the public to enjoy. The sale of the first set of flats at astronomical prices is expected to fund the further stage of the development… so you can probably guess the most likely stumbling block in the whole scheme.

Current proposal for BSP site.

Current proposal for BSP site from across river.

View of current BSP proposal from above.

But if things go well, we could see a Northern Line extension to Nine Elms and Battersea. Excellent! Guy Parsons

Northern Line extenstion to Nine Elms and Battersea.

See the ideas Time Out readers suggested for Battersea Power Station.

And a hat tip to things magazine’s excellent review of unrealised BPS schemes and Tower Times/Russell Kilby for providing photos of the 1983 theme park plans. 

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