A pair of Peregrine Falcons are nesting in one of the distinctive white chimneys rising from the vast building of the refurbished Battersea Power Station, unfazed by construction work.
Ten years and several prime ministers after developers broke ground at a ceremony attended by david cameronEurope’s largest brick building will open to the public on October 14, with 254 apartments, as well as restaurants, bars, offices and a glass elevator that takes passengers to an eagle’s nest at the top of the chimney from the northwest.
Immortalized on a Pink Floyd album cover that featured flying pigs, and on screen in The King’s Speech and Ian McKellen’s Richard III, the building is an enduring feature of the Thames skyline, but until now its interior has been out of reach. of most visitors.
A free “festival of power” will celebrate its latest incarnation, ending a long period of speculation during which the developers proposed turning the abandoned site into a giant theme park or a stadium for the Chelsea football club.
For half a century, the power station burned coal to generate up to a fifth of London’s electricity, keeping the lights on at Buckingham Palace (codenamed Carnaby Street 2 in the control room) and the Houses of Parliament, before to release their last columns of smoke. smoking in 1983.
It is now the centerpiece of a 42-acre site, nestled alongside apartment blocks designed by American architect Frank Gehry in his distinctive style with fragmented forms, and a large, flexible structure designed by Foster + Partners.
The project is owned by a consortium of Malaysian investors. led by SP Setia and Sime Darby Property, which bought the site in 2012 for £400m after its owner had gone into receivership. They embarked on a £9bn renovation, divided into eight phases. So far, some 1,600 of the planned 4,000 homes have been built.
The vast, cavernous spaces of the two turbine halls are now filled with restaurants and shops, including Ralph Lauren, Mulberry and Reiss, as well as Uniqlo, Mango, Superdry and Swatch. One floor above Levi’s, the former Control Room B has been converted into a sleek bar, featuring the original stainless steel control panels and switches to control the flow of electricity.
Apple will move more than 1,500 employees from the London offices to its new UK base inside the boiler room, across six floors. Its chief executive, Tim Cook, who gave a private tour of the building last week, said: “Once a powerhouse for much of London, the transformation this building has undergone honors London’s past and celebrates Her future. We are very happy to be part of this.”
IWG, which operates office rental brands Regus and Spaces, will welcome tenants with flexible rentals starting next April in the art deco-inspired Engine Room, overlooking the river. He expects “huge demand” for hybrid workers.
Luxury apartments line both sides of the main building, above the shops, and 90% have been sold. They start at £865,000 for a studio, while the 18 villas in the sky, three- and four-bedroom penthouses with private terraces arranged around a community rooftop garden, cost up to £7m. With only a handful of villas taken so far, the marketing of these more expensive homes is still in full swing.
The man in charge of attracting buyers is Simon Murphy, the chief executive of the Battersea Power Station Development Company, which was set up by the Malaysian consortium. “The ones left to sell are the larger units, which are always sold last,” he said. “In the last 18 months, we have sold over £600m worth of homes, much of it to Britons.”
The first residents moved in in May 2021, and the new Battersea Power Station tube stop, which is on a branch of the Northern Line, opened in September last year.
When the site is complete, it is expected to house 25,000 people and attract 25 to 30 million visitors each year.
It’s a great bet during a cost of living crisis. “We remain confident,” Murphy said. “We are not blind to the fact that the world is in a tough space right now and has been for a long time.”
The Malaysian owners expect to receive £100m a year in commercial rents from the first three phases of the project.
When WilkinsonEyre Architects embarked on the redesign a decade ago, the power station had been reduced to a shell, with no roof. There was grass growing on the ground in the middle. Sebastien Ricard, the project manager, said: “We were surprised by the scale of the building and we wanted to preserve it. We didn’t want to over-restore it.”
While all four chimneys had to be replaced, with reinforced concrete replicas, many of the powerhouse’s original features remained, including the two control rooms, one with art deco trim and herringbone parquet flooring, the other in a more brutal style of the 1950s, as well as ceramic coverings, exposed steel beams, remains of stairs and the old directors’ entrance. Cranes have been incorporated into the design, one of which supports a pedestrian bridge that spans turbine hall A.
Critics point out that there is little affordable housing and none within the power plant. In addition to the luxury homes, the developer has built a block of 386 affordable homes, some distance from the power station across the main road. They account for less than a tenth of the total planned for the site. They range from studios to one- and two-bedroom apartments, a combination of social rental and shared ownership, and are managed by Britain’s largest housing association, Peabody.
Not everyone is impressed. Keith Garner, a Battersea-based architect, said: “Forty years to create a shopping mall! Battersea Power Station should have taken its place alongside London’s other great cultural institutions: the British Museum, the South Kensington museums, Tate Britain and Tate Modern.
“But to achieve that, they would have needed a different business model, a more hybrid solution involving trust ownership that would have made it eligible for lottery funding alongside commercial tenants.”
In its place, alongside the shops and offices, will be a boxing gym, a movie theater and a private club for members, and a glass elevator named Elevator 109 after the height of the chimney it serves. Riders must remain inside once it reaches the top, taking in the view for a few minutes, before descending again.
However, when the reporters were given a sneak peek, the elevator went up and then down again (twice). Something to do with the wind, apparently. The developers will want to fix that before the grand opening.