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Art Design London Property Investment: Could Battersea Be The Neighbourhood To Watch?

London Property Investment: Could Battersea Be The Neighbourhood To Watch?

The former power station will become a retail and lifestyle complex, with an extensive rooftop garden that’s open to the public
The former power station will become a retail and lifestyle complex, with an extensive rooftop garden that’s open to the public
By Hong Xinying
By Hong Xinying
January 10, 2020
The restoration of this former power station in Battersea has transformed an abandoned site into the nucleus of the district’s recent rejuvenation

We visit Battersea on an unusually sunny day, enjoying an afternoon tea on an outdoor deck next to the River Thames. Served with trays of sconces, small pastries and an aromatic selection of teas, our midday delight seems so quaint and so remarkably English, if not for the atypical weather we’re enjoying. Dubbed The Coaling Jetty, this spot on the barge also plays host to a variety of activities including outdoor yoga sessions and festive events throughout the year, set against the distinctive tall chimneys of Battersea Power Station.

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The development features an array of public spaces
The development features an array of public spaces

The power station has been a distinctive part of the skyline this side of London since its construction in the early 20th century. Giles Gilbert Scott’s masterpiece combined the functional needs of the facility with art deco-influenced details that turned the industrial space into a notable architectural landmark. The present-day Tate Modern (housed in a power station also designed by Scott) shows a glimpse of the voluminous sense of space that the Battersea Power Station will have as a mixed-use development. Once it is fully renovated, it will house a 18,500sqft food hall and collection of boutiques, 253 luxury apartments and the 540,000sqft European headquarters of tech giant Apple.

Measuring over 1 million sqft, this restoration project led by WilkinsonEyre is slated for completion in 2021. “What we’re trying to build is a new town centre in London,” says Simon Murphy, CEO of Battersea Power Station Development Company. The former power station will serve as the heart of the neighbourhood located in the Nine Elms district; the entire development (including the nearby public areas, apartments as well as boutiques and lifestyle venues) measures 17 hectares.

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One of the chimneys will house a glass lift and viewing gallery
One of the chimneys will house a glass lift and viewing gallery

Such Great Heights

The restoration project is a monumental task, not only due to its grand scale; it was in such a derelict state that much of the structure had to be reconstructed in a way that was also faithful to its original design. “It’s not a typical restoration project, it was already a very derelict space; some of the walls had already collapsed and effectively very little (remained) inside the main building itself,” says Sebastien Ricard, director of WilkinsonEyre, who led the project team.

The main aim of this project was to conserve the elements that could be retained while staying true to the building’s industrial roots. “We wanted to retain that sense of scale of the building and its industrial heritage,” shares Ricard. “We are also raising the existing quirkiness of the building. We do not want this building to look like a new building when it is completed. When people enter the building, they can see what it used to be and they can understand the complexity of its (previous) usage.”

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The former power station will become a retail and lifestyle complex, with an extensive rooftop garden that’s open to the public
The former power station will become a retail and lifestyle complex, with an extensive rooftop garden that’s open to the public

Better Together

Built in two parts, the structure comprises two turbine halls built in distinctly different styles. Turbine Hall A was first built in the 1930s and is an elaborate space filled with art deco influences; whereas Turbine Hall B was constructed in a more austere style in the 1950s, shortly after the Second World War. “The 1930s was probably the golden era of electricity; this part (Turbine Hall A) was really been designed as a monument to modernity and technology,” says Ricard. “Turbine Hall B is very beautiful for a different reason; (it had) very utilitarian architecture of the ’50s and was built very quickly in four to five years.”

A rendering of the interior of the power station
A rendering of the interior of the power station

The firm wanted to celebrate the voluminous sense of space in both turbine halls. Glass-fronted shops are installed around the perimeter of the six storey-high central atrium to keep the views unblocked to show its full height as well as elements of its timeworn details. “At the south entrance, we exposed the full height and kept the decay of the facade as it is,” he explains. “We wanted to create that kind of magical moment, so that wherever you are in the building you will have a bit of a glimpse of the existing (facade). We kept the middle (the atrium) free, with floating objects of escalators and elevators that allow for maximum view of the facade.”

The two original control rooms of the power station will also find a new purpose; appearing like bandstands “suspended in the air”, these will serve as event spaces that overlook the atrium. These spaces also bear significance in recent film history: cinephiles will recognise Control Room A, which was the setting of a key scene in The King’s Speech. The rooftop of the turbine halls will also house a communal garden, while the luxury apartments are sited in ways that allow for some of the best views of the neighbourhood.

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The Engine Room at Battersea Power Station
The Engine Room at Battersea Power Station

Another outstanding feature of the building is its double-level entrance which connects to the riverfront; this is one of the first sights that greets pedestrians alighting from the soon-to-open Battersea station, built as part of the Tube’s Northern line extension. It features a staircase inspired by the Spanish Steps, the famed butterfly-like staircase in Rome, Italy that also provides an elegant transition to the public plaza (named Malaysia Square after the district’s developers).

“One of the challenges is that the connection to Nine Elms (district) is about one level below the river; it’s effectively a full site slope,” says Ricard. “That gives us the opportunity of creating a double-level entrance where you can focus on the piazza breaking (into) those curb steps, where people can see it.”

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The restored facade of Battersea Power Station features bricks produced by the original manufacturer
The restored facade of Battersea Power Station features bricks produced by the original manufacturer

The landmark’s four chimneys have also been painstakingly reconstructed in reinforced concrete and painted in the same style as the original. One of the four chimneys will also discreetly integrate a glass lift that functions as a viewing gallery at the summit; it ascends 109m upwards to the chimney top to unveil panoramic views of the city. “You will find this magical world on top of the chimney that you wouldn’t have known existed in the building,” quips Ricard. It’s also a brilliant way to survey the massive building, an iconic landmark soon to be revitalised for the 21st century.

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Phase three of the development will include a pedestrian walkway and luxury apartments housed within Battersea Roof Gardens designed by Foster + Partners
Phase three of the development will include a pedestrian walkway and luxury apartments housed within Battersea Roof Gardens designed by Foster + Partners

The landmark’s four chimneys have also been painstakingly reconstructed in reinforced concrete and painted in the same style as the original. One of the four chimneys will also discreetly integrate a glass lift that functions as a viewing gallery at the summit; it ascends 109m upwards to the chimney top to unveil panoramic views of the city. “You will find this magical world on top of the chimney that you wouldn’t have known existed in the building,” quips Ricard. It’s also a brilliant way to survey the massive building, an iconic landmark soon to be revitalised for the 21st century.

(Related: 4 Highly-Anticipated Art Exhibitions to See in New York City and London in 2020)

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Art & Design Tatler Homes battersea power station battersea london property

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