Terry Farrell & Partners have released a statement confirming they intend to submit a listed building application for Battersea Power Station at their own cost, as Wandsworth Council have granted planning consent for their Embassy Gardens masterplan in Nine Elms.
Farrells are assembling a team of expert consultants in order to preserve the iconic parts of the crumbling power station and save it from demolition, which has appeared increasingly likely ever since the owners went into administration towards the end of last year. The team includes Alan Baxter, who has had various roles within English Heritage and specialises in conservation issues as well as being a structural engineer.
Farrells say the hugely prohibitive costs of refurbishing the power station make it unviable and that this option is no longer on the table. Shortly after the previous owners went into administration, Farrells published their own scheme which retained the front and back walls and art deco control rooms whilst creating a landscaped park in the middle.
Farrells now plan to submit an application themselves without a developer or landowner commissioning them, but, they say, following “intense interest from a number of developers”.
In an interview with the Evening Standard, Sir Terry explains that he feels so passionately about saving this great industrial building that he has decided to submit an application to retain the iconic parts at his own cost. If the application receives consent, he explains, Farrells will not own the rights to it as it will go with the land and whoever buys the site.
Sir Terry, who is Design Advisor to the Mayor of London, Former Commissioner of English Heritage and Former Chair of their London Advisory Committee, believes that this is the only way to unblock this important site whilst preserving the cherished parts of the power station.
His practice is actively involved in the wider area. They are responsible for masterplanning the site around the new US Embassy at Nine Elms for the developers Ballymore, which has just received planning consent, as well as creating a vision for the future of Vauxhall and ‘humanising the gyratory’ for Lambeth Council. The vision aims to restore the lost town centre by creating a new high street and anticipating two way traffic and the removal of the bus station there. They have also proposed a surface tram link or a shuttle bus service to Vauxhall station as an interim measure before a new tube station and extension to the Northern Line which could take at least ten years to build.
In the interview with the Evening Standard, Sir Terry said; “Giles Gilbert Scott is one of the greatest architects of the 20th Century and to bring this monumental temple alive again would be incredibly exciting. I believe that submitting a listed building application is the only way forward now, in order to preserve the iconic parts of the power station and unblock the ‘bigness’ that has thwarted all previous attempts to redevelop it.
“The most important thing is the relationship of the mass overall to the great void inside and I find all attempts to fill it up and to make money – whether shopping, leisure, conferencing or a football stadium – deeply upsetting. The glorious sculptural remains of Fountains Abbey or the Parthenon in Athens have a retained sense of their spatial order.
“Our proposal for a colonnade and park retains the sense of the great void inside as well as the external view of the silhouette. What is most important is to celebrate this spectacular landmark silhouette, it’s built form and shape on the Thameside setting.
The cost of repairs will be confined solely to the end towers and chimneys (which will be kept and not demolished or replaced). This cost will be in the order of £25m against the estimated cost of repairing the entire building which for previous schemes would have been in the order of £90m.
The cost of the new park, water features and new elements is estimated at £18m which is significantly different to the cost of new uses and development as proposed by the consented scheme which would have been in the order of £600m.
The value of the park must also been considered in terms of the increase on surrounding residential property prices which one would expect to be at least 10% higher. This is a very sensible alternative to providing lots of new internal uses at great cost to any developer which by some estimates could be over £300m. A park would also dramatically accelerate the development programme – reducing interest rates, consultants fees and radically bringing forward sales income which could all add up to an extra £250m.
The art deco control rooms will be retained their existing positions without being “subsumed and overwhelmed by shopping malls, or football terraces or along corridors off a conference centre”. Their “heroic” position in these proposals will heighten their value – after all no-one suggests they could be control rooms again and so they should be, says Farrell, “objet trouvé”.
Sir Terry concludes: “This spectacle, this incredible monument, needs to be preserved as much as St Pancras or Stonehenge but it is the essence of the building form and architectural mass, not it’s filled commercial internal re-use that need to be preserved. That way we can retain for future generations the bold presence and memory of this great industrial giant.”
Farrells are planning to submit the application within a month. This will present an interesting alternative to a recent EC Harris report which suggested demolishing the towers would save £470m.