I stopped by Battersea Power Station this afternoon after Harriet Hawkins texted me to say the developers had finally begun to chip at the chimneys. There was a sense of urgency in her text. When I got there, I saw why. On the side of the building, there was some new signage promising, as property owners are prone to do, that the future architectural simulation and simulacra envisioned on this choice riverfront real estate will retain an essence of place. Architectural homicide under the scalpel of cosmetic improvement almost always follows these sorts of proclamations.
‘Spot the difference’ the banner tells us. But is it ‘spotting’ the difference that we should be concerned about? Or should we be more concerned whether we will feel the difference? Will Self recently posed a similar question to the head of English Heritage at the opening the the new Stonehenge visitor centre. As usual, this is a question of context. And zooming out, the context of this ‘redevelopment’ is pretty clear – BPS is flanked by lifeless waterfront apartments owned by foreign investors and yuppies too exhausted from being whipped at work to enjoy them on one side, and a herd of cranes tearing up the block on the other. We all know how this story ends it’s a fucking flaccid narrative arc.
I moved across the river and hopped a small fence to get another angle on the action. From there you can see, after some aggressive cropping, how Battersea will die by a thousand cuts – see the green netting? Behind that the chimney is being picked to pieces. The cynic in me feels that killing building in this way prevents a single spectacular moment of destruction that can be protested. Not that apathic Londoners ever put up much of a fight anyway.
I have just had a new piece come out in the book Mount London, where I’ve written about our enduring relationship with Battersea Power Station. I’m going to embed it here and hope the editors won’t mind me doing so, since it is a way of paying my respects as Battersea is cut down before us. If you enjoy the chapter, please consider buying the book. There are a lot of other great chapters in it, including one by Joe Dunthorne on The Shard that is linguistically riotous, to say the least. How long it will take, I wonder, for another herd of cranes to be perched over that landmark, chipping it away one floor at a time?
Lee Narborough has told me that the green netting is a viewing platform and it’s the chimney opposite which will be rebuilt first.
@Goblinmerchant In your pic the red circle is on a inspection platform the stack next to it is first one being rebuilt
— Lee Narborough (@NarboroughL) June 26, 2014