Battersea Power Station and its chimneys have been an iconic part of the London skyline since the time of their construction between 1929 and 1955. The complex was the collaboration between renowned London architects J. Theo Halliday and Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the latter also being the creator of the city’s iconic red telephone boxes. Of particular note are Halliday’s overall “four square” arrangement and Scott’s “streamlining” of the exterior and the stepped chimney pedestals. The building’s sleek exterior design, Art Deco interiors, and the engineering achievements of its turbine and heating systems are a testament to its extraordinary significance. The structure has appeared on the cover of Pink Floyd’s 1977 album "Animals," was featured as an icon of London in the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, and repeatedly tops lists of favorite buildings in polls with both public and professional respondents. The local community is engaged and vested in the future of their swathe of London, and the international community recognizes the cultural significance of this twentieth-century icon.
Watch listing as a catalyst for institutional collaboration
Since 1983 Battersea Power Station has been closed to the public, marking over 30 years of abandonment and lack of appropriate maintenance. After being on the World Monuments Watch in 2004, the power station’s impending demolition was averted. Ten years later, its future was once again in question and it was included on the 2014 Watch. Located on prime real estate, the building and its surroundings face ongoing redevelopment with a shopping mall planned for its lower floors and offices and residential units to be housed above the power station. Advocates are concerned that the plans do not adequately protect the iconic chimneys and the important views of the power station’s silhouette. In 2005 the reinforced concrete chimneys were declared to be beyond repair, despite an engineering report funded by the Battersea Power Station Company and WMF Britain which found no evidence that the chimneys had to be demolished. The dismantling of the historic chimneys began in August 2014, and their rebuilding started in May 2015 with work noticeable in the skyline one month later.
In 2014, American Express supported the creation of a documentary film in collaboration with Spectacle Productions and the Battersea Power Station Community Group to further the awareness of Battersea Power Station and its preservation challenges. Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon details the building’s historic and cultural significance, its present-day part in one of the largest redevelopment projects in London, and the controversial debate that has arisen around the site’s future. The film added momentum to advocacy efforts related to the power station, and supported an inspiring community effort to save one of London’s most iconic buildings. To celebrate the release of the documentary, an event was held in October 2015 to launch the film and bring together the community of supporters who are vested in securing the site’s future.
Watch Day was celebrated in September 2014 with an architectural walking tour of sites around the complex, led by knowledgeable guides. Discussion of waterfront issues, such as riverside development, culminated in a talk on the challenges facing Battersea Power Station.