Battersea Power Station

Battersea 'A' Power Station, London: the turbine hall. © Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Library Photographs Collection

T his view of the turbine hall shows its extraordinarily lavish interior as commissioned by the London Power Company as well as two of the three Metropolitan Vickers turbines used to generate electricity. The Fletton brick walls and giant pilasters above the turbine floor level are lined with terracotta slabs with a blue-grey tint and a black dado. 

Article by Jonathan Makepeace, Imaging Services Manager, British Architectural Library , RIBA

 

 

It is hard to imaging this stretch of the Thames without it. 

New London architecture by Kenneth Powell, 2005, p.80

Battersea during Open House 2013:

On 31 October 1983 the generation of power at Battersea Power Station ceased forever. If you were around in 1983 it’s possible your Betamax videocassette recorder or Commodore 64 was powered by the last watts of electricity from James Theodore Halliday and Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s giant brick masterpiece.

Public during Open House event at Battersea Power Station, 2013. © Wilson Yau
Public during Open House event at Battersea Power Station, 2013.
© Wilson Yau

Derelict for much of its existence since its closure and a victim of several failed proposals for redevelopment, 30 years later the site welcomed thousands of visitors as part of  Open House London  weekend in September 2013. I was fortunate to get in; I was also eager enough to get there before the gates opened and to queue for over two hours – it was worth it.

In the RIBA’s collections in the British Architectural Library are historic photographs, drawings and books (view some of them on  RIBApix ) that anyone can access to find out more about this landmark in Battersea and its architects. I used these as reference in preparation for my visit, but those images were of a fully-functioning power station in its prime belching smoke. What I was to see in person was radically different.

Battersea Power Station, London, in 1968. © Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Library Photographs Collection
Battersea Power Station, London, in 1968.
© Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Entry into the site that weekend was from the riverfront at Chelsea Bridge, past the jetties supporting the two rusty cranes that once received the British coal, carried by ships on the Thames, used at Battersea. Once inside the building, entering between the two chimneys facing the Thames, I walked through the boiler house and there I saw the extent of the dereliction caused by the removal of the roof in the 1980s. From here, all four chimneys defining each corner and the interior side of the crumbling walls could be seen. The presence of hundreds of excited people in the same space gave a jovial atmosphere to a scene of sombre industrial abandonment.

Many visitors (me included) were taking pictures of the same things: the instantly recognisable chimneys, the great expanses of stained brick walls, panoramic views of the turbine halls and the reflections on puddles of water. The turbine halls on either side of the boiler house are in better condition, sadly without the machinery that once gave these spaces a purpose. Much of the site around the power station has been cleared, with some parts partially landscaped with wild flowers.

If you want to get a view of the whole site, climb the Accumulator Tower (also open during Open House) in Churchill Gardens estate on the opposite bank. You’ll get a fine view of the whole city and discover the unique way homes on the estate was once heated using waste hot water from the power station.

Article by Wilson Yau, British Architectural Library, RIBA


View of Battersea Power Station from Accumulator Tower, Churchill Gardens, 2013. © Wilson Yau Boiler house and chimneys, Battersea Power Station, 2013. © Wilson Yau Reflection, Battersea Power Station, 2013. © Wilson Yau Turbine Hall A, Battersea Power Station, 2013. © Wilson Yau Heat-accumulator and Churchill Gardens Estate, London, in 1951 (left); Heat-accumulator in 1963 (right). © RIBA Library Photographs Collection Battersea 'A' Power Station, London: the turbine hall. © Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Library Photographs Collection  
×