Battersea Power Station: Powering The Future
Chantal Borciani looks into the regeneration of one of the capital’s most iconic sites as 2020 rings in the culmination of one of the redevelopment’s key phases
This year, marks the end of ‘Phase 2’ in the Battersea Power Station (BPS) redevelopment, where building within the Power Station will complete. In 2021, the Power Station is slated to open to the public, global tech firm Apple will move into its new London Campus on site and the Northern Line Extension is scheduled to complete.
The regeneration to date includes the creation of Battersea’s Circus West Village, which opened in the shadow of the iconic turrets in 2017 and now boasts a thriving esplanade of restaurants, brunch joints and bars, along with new contemporary residential buildings home to some of the capital’s most stylish apartments and even a new arts space – Turbine Theatre – which has found a home under the Battersea arches.
To celebrate the work so far, the team behind the renovation has launched TeamBattersea – a short film, produced by local company Chocolate Films, which shares the personal stories of six former employees as well as showing never-before-seen footage of the iconic London site, which once supplied a fifth of the capital’s electricity before it was decommissioned in 1983.
The short film is the result of the Team Battersea Alumni Project, which launched in January 2019 and aimed to locate former employees and capture their stories, memories and experiences of working at BPS.
Chatting to one of the stars of the film and a BPS alumni, Tom Bassett, it’s evident what a special place the landmark still is for many of the ex-employees. “We clocked on at 7.30am and I would usually shadow one of the mechanics to learn the trade,” explains Tom, who was an apprentice instrument mechanic circa 1965. “Most of the work was done in the boiler house, which was dusty and noisy. The best thing about being an apprentice was you would train in all the areas of the Power Station so I also worked in the electrical, mechanical, efficiency departments, drawing office, and with turbine drivers and boiler stokers.”
Brian Davison, First Student Apprentice at Battersea Power Station from 1948 – 1953, adds: “It was like going into a church, apart from the noise. The A Station was wonderful. It was unique.”
While the BPS site has seen several failed redevelopment plans never break ground over the last two decades, today the £9 billion BPS project is making significant bounds and Tom, along with several other alumni in the film, are happy to see the landmark saved from rack and ruin. “I think the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station is fantastic, it is saving a London landmark,” says Tom. “The use of original materials and the lengths gone to restore the listed building to its former glory is great.” “On completion of the restoration, I am looking forward to seeing the external of the station basically as it was but on the inside trying to work out the various areas where I used to work. I expect the Instrument Maintenance Workshop will either be a smart office space or a comfortable apartment.”
An interactive Power Station Heritage Trail app has also been created, to further reveal the history of the building. The free mobile app has a game for younger visitors and an augmented reality experience that gives visitors the chance to virtually access parts of the legendary building.
Over the last 12 months, the first completed chapter of the redevelopment, Circus West Village, has welcomed over three million people. When complete, the 42-acre BPS site will feature 4,239 new homes, shops, restaurants, offices, culture and leisure venues, as well as 19 acres of public space and the successful regeneration promises to create 20,000 new jobs.