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.)
The proposal included a ship moored alongside and blimps floating above.
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)
A view inside the power station, with an ice rink on the ground floor.
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
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’.
Simulators would allow children to JOURNEY! INTO! TOMORROW!
I’m not sure this ‘ride through the history of the British Empire’ would’ve stood the test of time.
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 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:
By 2001, Arup’s site plan was allegedly on the cusp of commencing:
Two years later and with na’ry a JCB in sight, a new plan emerged to install a hotel in the roof:
Other sketches of the concept were a bit more… lively:
This one should’ve been captioned ‘Oh sod it, you get the gist’:
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:
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:
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:
Or was it going to become a garden? At this point, we’re starting a bit confused…
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:
But the Mayor’s office didn’t like that very much, so eventually, it too disappeared from plans, as this 2009 site plan shows:
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:
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:
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.
But if things go well, we could see a Northern Line extension to Nine Elms and Battersea. Excellent! Guy Parsons
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.