Battersea Power Station - Kirtling Road, Battersea, London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 28.849 W 000° 08.434
30U E 698545 N 5707173
Quick Description: Take the major tourist attractions out of the mix and probably the next best known building to Londoners is Battersea Power Station. The four chimneys of this mid twentieth century power station dominate the south west London skyline.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 1/12/2013 7:35:05 AM
Waymark Code: WMG4KP
Views: 5

Long Description:

The Virtual Globetrotting website [visit link] has an aerial shot of the power station. The massive area that it covers can also be seen.

The building is Grade II* listed and the entry at the English Heritage website [visit link] tells us:

"Former electricity generating station. Built in 2 principal phases: 1929-35 and 1937-41, completed 1955. Built by the London Power Company to the design of Leonard Pearce, Engineer in Chief to the LPC, CS Allott & Son Engineers: the architects were J Theo Halliday and Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.

MATERIALS: Steel frame clad in brown Blockley bricks laid mainly in English bond; reinforced concrete roofs; that to the boiler houses currently (2005) missing; pre-cast concrete chimneys; metal-framed Crittall windows.

PLAN: approximately square on plan, comprising 2 independently-operating power stations: Station A, the western half and Station B, the eastern half. Laid out on a symmetrical plan, comprising a pair of long central boiler houses with large square pavilions - the washing towers - to each corner, surmounted by chimneys, flanked by a pair of lower, set back, turbine houses; these in turn are flanked by set back blocks containing switch houses and other ancillary spaces. Entrances to SW and SE. A vast underground coal store lies between the building and the river.

EXTERIOR: Symmetrical elevations. A low horizontal string-course of fluted concrete encircles the entire building denoting its base. Strongly articulated parapets to all elevations. Low pitched lanterns to roofs. The central, recessed, bays of the riverside (N) and S elevations have tall windows which light the boiler houses, and a fluted parapet which continues around the tower sides. The towers are the key to the composition. Their front and rear elevations are tripartite with a central projecting bay with vertical fluting, diminishing at the top. The upper parts are stepped back in a ziggurat formation as bases for the chimneys. The upper side elevations of the boiler houses are blind with lesenes demarcating the bays, and have set-back fluted parapets. The side elevations have small vertical windows and rows of transformer bays below. The S elevation of Station B is heavily fenestrated and does not match its counterpart. The chimneys are designed as fluted Doric columns and have 2 shaft rings at the top. Entrance to Station A has splendid bronze doors designed by Halliday depicting Energy personified; these are currently (2005) in storage.

INTERIOR: Internally, the principal interest lies in the functional plan form and the spaces outlined below. The central boiler houses are currently (2005) a roofless shell and await refurbishment. Station A: Directors' entrance hall and staircase faced in grey Napoleon and Black Belgian marble and staircase; lift enclosure with steel-framed glazing and bronze doors. Marble Directors' tablet of 1933. The central boiler houses have no features of note. Machinery and floors removed from the boiler and turbine houses. Turbine House A has elaborate Art Deco finishes of biscuit-coloured faience with a blue mottled effect and darker blue string courses. The wall bays are defined by giant fluted pilasters with black faience bases; above these a steel crane gantry runner acts visually as the architrave, with faience relief panels above. The W side has 6 steel-framed oriel windows and 2 balconies at the upper levels to enable overlooking from the control room at the upper level of the adjacent switch house. Control Room A overlooks the turbine hall and has sumptuous Art Deco interior; the walls are lined with grey Ribbon Napoleon marble with fluting around the windows in Belgian Black marble. The ceiling is divided into 8 bays, each coffered and glazed with cellulose-coated decorative lights set in a steel frame, with original Holophane light fittings; and has a Vitruvian scroll frieze along the cornice soffit. It retains its original L-shaped control panel and walnut-veneer furniture. Station B: The layout follows that of Station A with certain modifications. The turbine house is clad in blue-grey faience and follows the same bay rhythm as Turbine House A, but in a much more austere, stripped classical manner. Control Room B opens directly onto the turbine house; it is faience clad and retains its original stainless-steel control panels arranged in an arc. Ceiling supported by 2 pillars with octagonal faces on square, tapering bases. The upper control room, added in the 1950s, overlooks the turbine hall and retains control desks and panels. The switch-gear room also retains equipment.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: To the N on a jetty parallel to the river wall there are 2 cranes which were used to unload coal from collier boats. While of lesser significance, they were integral parts of the original complex and are now rare riverside features.

HISTORY: Battersea was designed to be constructed in 2 stages, planning permission being granted subject to the efficacy of the proposed 'gas washing' system. This linked the boilers to the towers, using water and alkaline sprays to remove sulphur from the gases. Station A was built 1929-35 and Station B 1937-41, the fourth (SE) chimney was added in 1955. Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was commissioned as consulting architect in 1929, after construction had begun, to refashion the exterior to appease adverse public reaction. Battersea was the first British power station to rationalise large-scale electricity distribution under the National Grid (established 1927-33), supplying almost a fifth of London's electricity on completion. It was also a masterpiece of industrial design with a major architectural quality, over and above that seen in contemporary national grid stations: 'a harmonising of engineering structure with architectural expression' (Architect and Building News, 13 January 1933). Although Scott's role was to remodel a preconceived design - he did not regard Battersea as one of his best works - his brickwork envelope is one of the building's triumphs. The bold but subtle design, with detail concentrated at the upper levels, embodies Scott's advocacy of 'contrast between plain surfaces and sparse well-placed ornament just where it is needed and nowhere else'. For the first time, a contemporary architectural character was stamped on the power station as a building type, setting the standard for the next generation of 'brick cathedrals' of the 1940s and '50s. Halliday's Art Deco interiors are a remarkable translation of the jazz-age cinema aesthetic to serve a functional, industrial space and were a visitor attraction in their time. Since first built, Battersea has held iconic status as one of London's most prominent riverside landmarks and has remained in popular culture ever since, appearing on the cover of Pink Floyd 1977 album 'Animals' and in countless images of London. Station A was decommissioned in 1975 and Station B in 1983 and the building has stood derelict ever since. It is due (2005) to be converted for a range of new uses.

SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: Battersea Power Station is of outstanding interest on architectural grounds as a monumental example of an inter-war utilities building, designed by a leading architect of his day. The interior retains elements of high importance but has undergone considerable alteration, including the removal of all machinery. The upgrading takes into account the degree of loss, and recognises the building's powerful architectural and historic significance."

The Scottish Architects website [visit link] tells us about Sir Giles Gilbert Scott:

"Giles Gilbert Scott was born on 9 November 1880 at Church Row, Hampstead, the son of George Gilbert Scott II and his wife Ellen King Sampson. Because of his father's mental illness, and because he was sent as a boarder to Beaumont College, his acquaintance with his father was only slight. Along with his younger brother, Adrian Gilbert Scott, he was articled to his father's pupil and successor Temple Lushinton Moore, thereafter moving as assistant to the Catholic architect Thomas Garner prior to winning the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral Competition in 1903; because of his inexperience he worked initially in association with one of the assessors, Garner's former partner George Frederick Bodley. While their lady chapel, the first part built, was outstanding in every respect, relations with the more conservative Bodley became strained and were on the point of breakdown when Bodley died in 1907. Scott became sole architect thereafter, completely redesigning the scheme for the cathedral itself in 1910.

Scott's success at Liverpool brought many Roman Catholic and High Church Anglican commissions from 1905, two of which were in Scotland. From 1930 he was extensively commissioned to design university buildings in both Oxford and Cambridge, power stations and the architectural aspects of bridges; these showed Scandinavian classical modern influences.

Scott was admitted FRIBA in 1912, and elected ARA in 1918 and RA in 1922. He was knighted in 1924 and received the Royal Gold Medal in 1925 and the Order of Merit in 1944. He died in University College Hospital, London on 8 February 1960."

The site is restricted so the co-ordinates given are for one of the access gates where it is possible to park for a few minutes and see this monster!

Architect: Sir Giles Gilbert Scott

Prize received: RIBA Royal Gold Medal

In what year: 1925

Website about the Architect: [Web Link]

Website about the building: [Web Link]

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orion2158 visited Battersea Power Station - Kirtling Road, Battersea, London, UK 6/4/2012 orion2158 visited it