Picturing London

Artists' interpretations: Bankside Power Station

Drawing of Bankside Power Station under construction

Bankside Power Station under construction, Southwark, 1951
Designer: Mott Hay & Anderson and Sir Giles Gilbert Scott
Artist: Harold Frank Hoar
© RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections

Bankside Power Station enjoys an envious position opposite St Paul's Cathedral, its bulky brick outline and tower dominates the southern bank of the River Thames. Built in two phases between 1947 and 1963, it replaced an earlier coal-fired power station regarded as inefficient.

This drawing by Frank Hoar shows the building under construction. Its square outline and lack of decoration called for careful composition. With his meticulous, grid-like cross-hatching, Hoar builds up a sense of scale and the texture of the brick while his economic use of pen captures the dramatic light and shade across the facade. Hoar contrasts Bankside with St Paul's in the distance; the ornate, rounded forms of the dome at odds with Bankside's Modernist profile. But, both buildings' grand size and masonry construction speak of importance and permanence.

With thicker pen and faster strokes, he fills in the bustling activity around the construction site, giving the power station a sense of scale and human energy. Hoar captures the experience of construction in the dour post-war years - and the hope for the future encapsulated in modern construction.

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