The Twentieth Century Society

100 Buildings 100 Years

1933: Battersea Power Station, London

Architect: Giles Gilbert Scott
Location: 188 Kirtling St, London, SW8 5BN

Thanks to the involvement of a distinguished architect, Battersea Power Station became the first electricity generating station to receive public acclaim. The original proposal for a large coal-burning facility on the south bank of the Thames, designed by the engineer Leonard Pearce and the Manchester architects Halliday & Agate, aroused strong opposition from residents in Chelsea and Westminster. So a knighted architect was wheeled in to allay fears in the shape of Giles Gilbert Scott, admired as the architect of Liverpool Cathedral. Scott carefully modelled the bases of the four column-like chimneys and detailed the superb brickwork of the vast walls in a non-historicist “jazz modern” manner. The result was that when Battersea ‘A’ with its two chimneys was completed in 1933, it was praised as a dramatic, modern “cathedral of power”. Battersea ‘B’ followed later, and for a while the station was a “three-pin plug” until the fourth chimney went up in 1955. Finally made redundant in 1983, Battersea Power Station has been the society’s longest-running case, and it is deplorable that the dramatic view of the building from the adjacent railway viaduct will be lost under the current development proposals for the wider site.
by Gavin Stamp
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