I’ve thought and written about this building several times over the last 12 years, and at each of those moments it seemed poised for some kind of transformation. Built in the 1930s, decommissioned in 1983, the obvious thing would have been to demolish the building and free up the land for redevelopment. But it is a very good building and its status as a London icon has grown since it stopped spewing black smoke from its chimneys. No plan for redevelopment can now contemplate taking a swipe at its brickwork – even if it requires rebuilding as facsimile. For the 2005 diary I wrote that Hong Kong-base Parkview were in the driving seat, with Nicholas Grimshaw and Arup Associates sipping Champagne in the back. According to Parkview, the power station was “a potent symbol of the energy, vitality and creativity that is London spirit”, whatever that grammatical mess actually means. And given that it had stood empty for the previous 20 years at the time, a moribund and decaying hulk, it was hard to read this comment as a compliment to the city.
By the time of the 2008 diary, the way I used to measure time, all had changed. Parkview, so passionate about the proposed redevelopment, saw the possibility of making a huge pot of money without the need to don a hard hat and so sold the site to Real Estate Opportunities, Dublin-based property swashbucklers. Grimshaw and Arup were escorted back north of the river and Rafael Viñoly was installed as the new face of Battersea. Well, lovely though he is, nothing’s happened since.