London's Battersea Power Station has appeared on the cover of a Pink Floyd album, stood in for a burned-out Gotham City warehouse in The Dark Knight, and at one point was considered as a new home for English Premier League soccer team Chelsea. It's one of Britain's most recognizable buildings, but it will soon share its site with 1,300 homes and a hotel designed by architects Frank Gehry and Norman Foster.
The architects showed their vision to the public yesterday, after winning the chance to work on 42-acre site in September 2013. A set of new buildings will be erected to the south, while the iconic station itself will be maintained. A decommissioned coal-fired power station, the Battersea plant was built in two stages: construction began on its first substation in 1929, before another substation was added in the 1950s. The building, with its four vast chimneys, now has a place on Britain's list of buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest.
The architects had to preserve the power station in their designs
Gehry and Foster's buildings will make up the third phase of new construction on the Battersea site. Five of the new structures are to be built by Gehry's firm. They have the architect's distinct take on deconstructivism. Their shape is almost organic, with flowing lines and asymmetrical designs that make the outer walls of the buildings appear to undulate and ripple. They're designed to house ground-level stores that open out onto a new shopping street, termed the "Electric Boulevard." Across that street will sit another building, designed by Foster's firm. The larger structure is architecturally different to the cluster of towers — it's sharper in aesthetic than Gehry's buildings — but its sinuous shape and curved design give it a similarly organic finish. That effect is set to be topped off by one of London's largest rooftop gardens.
Both Gehry and Foster are internationally renowned for their craft. Gehry's works include the much-admired Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, while Foster designed New York's Hearst Tower and London's 30 St Mary Axe (more commonly known as "the Gherkin"). Their designs for the Battersea station will benefit from expanded travel links to the area. The power station is located on the banks of the river Thames, but at more than a mile from the nearest subway station, it's something of an inconvenient location. A new subway extension on the Northern line should make it simpler to see some of the UK's most memorable architecture — both old and new — in the same place when the project is complete.