BPSCG members today visited the "China Power Station" exhibition at Battersea Power Station, organised by the Serpentine Gallery.
The exhibition of sculpture, installations and video was held in the 'B' Station of the Power Station. Although interesting, the installations were completely upstaged by the building itself, which was clearly what what most people had come to see.
We were closely followed by Parkview and Serpentine Gallery security staff throughout our visit. We even overheard them as referring to us as "Targets 1-6".
The visit confirmed our worst fears about the condition of Battersea Power Station, and the shocking extent of Parkview's neglect of the listed building.
There is no sign at all of any conservation and repair work (either complete or in progress) but plenty of evidence of Parkview's constructive neglect, calculated to do as much harm to the structure of the listed building as possible.
Plants can still be seen growing from the chimney bases, despite repeated requests from BPSCG over the years for these to be removed. This is indicative of water penetration likely to be causing corrosion to supporting steelwork.
In the exhibition areas, water was dripping from the ceiling and was running down the steel stanchions. Water was lying in pools on the floors of the exhibition areas.
Elsewhere, the beautiful terracotta blocks lining the walls of the 'B' station turbine hall are chipped and broken. Ceiling panels taken down by Parkview on 'health & safety' grounds, have not been reinstated.
Despite this, large parts of the building remain in good condition, particularly the brickwork much of which is still perfect. (Two architects visiting the exhibition agreed on this point.) Clearly however the lack of proper drainage is causing harm to the steel structure and this is the crucial aspect that needs to be addressed.
The situation revealed by the visit is an indictment of the complacent bureaucrats at English Heritage, who have allowed Parkview to mistreat the building in this way for over a decade
It is clear from e-mails received by BPSCG in recent days that members of the public are equally outraged. Sabine Warren, whose photos can be seen here, has written to the Chief Executive of English Heritage in these terms:
I attended the China exhibition currently being held at Battersea Power Station and left feeling saddened about what a potentially great loss the slow death of this incredible building will be.
I found it incredibly shocking, as does everyone else who saw it, that the building has been allowed to get into such a sad state of disrepair. I'm amazed that with its listed status not more is being done to protect it.
For all their PR, I'm deeply suspicious of Parkview and their intentions for the Power Station. It seems that their focus is entirely on developing the surrounding area into expensive riverside flats, which are making our area of London bland and homogenous. I read in South London Press that their plans for the Power Station have been shelved, and there doesn't seem to be any specific commitment to saving the building. Was this not a condition of giving Parkview planning permission?
I look forward to hearing from you regarding this matter.
Giles Fraser has sent this letter to Simon Thurley:
My fiancée & I visited Battersea Power Station (BPS) on Sunday 29th October
2006. I drove all the way back from Mansfield to do so, but would have
driven from the moon, to be able to finally gain access to this beautiful
building. (Incredible - it has taken 23 years for the building to become
accessible to the public!)
Apparently there was an art exhibition taking place? The building itself IS
art. Nearly all of the people I spoke to only came because of BPS. My breath
was taken away as I began queuing at it's sheer size & splendor. However
when I entered BPS, I cried. Both internally & externally. WHAT have
Parkview done to BPS? Supposedly 200 million pounds has been spent by
Parkview on BPS......I could not see any evidence of 2 million pounds, let
alone 200 million. What have they done, put the money into a strongbox & dug
a hole in the old boiler room & buried it within? The internal of the main
structure was horrible to see. Such neglect. I also viewed Battersea B
Turbine Hall, where there was a large picture of what the Hall looked like
in it's heyday. Hardly recognizable are two words which spring to mind.
Pools of water & holes in the brickwork were all around.
More to the point, WHY have they been allowed to willfully neglect BPS since
they purchased it in 1993? I know that BPS was willfully destroyed by John
Broome, when he removed one wall & the roof, but Parkview have had the
building for THIRTEEN years godammit!! Now the chimneys are going to be
demolished when there is no reason. An independent survey by structural
engineers has pointed out that they could be repaired for a sum I believe to
be 28 thousand pounds. But of course, they are not going to be replaced are
they. I am not stupid. The building is going to be demolished for housing,
or shops or something equally as money making. Something this country is
adept at, destroying it's history & heritage. Just look at Brooklands Motor
Racing Circuit in Weybridge Surrey for just one example.
I am sad, aghast & bloody angry. My fiancée said to me after we had left,
'What did you think of it?' I told her, from the outside she was
magnificent, strong, immensely powerful and gargantuan. But on the inside
she has been raped, she was sad, almost broken.
If BPS does end up just a memory and just a photograph, then why do we
bother? I thought Parkview might have opened up the Control Room with all
the beautiful art deco & parquet flooring. Instead we got to see a tragedy.
Parkview might have thought they were being clever, instead, I think they
may have shot themselves in the foot finally, because people are not fools.
They came & saw it for themselves. A twenty three year old tragedy, that is
ongoing and no-one, but no-one seems to be able to stop the final curtain
We would ask all of our supporters to follow Sabine's and Grant's examples and write to to Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage at this address:
1 Waterhouse Square
138 - 142 Holborn
London, EC1 2ST
Tel: 020 7973 3000
The exhibition is on Thursday-Sunday 12-7pm, until Sunday 5th November, admission £5.00.
Posted on 27th October 2006