A familiar sight along the River Thames since the 1930s, Battersea Power Station is one of London’s most iconic buildings. Now 70 years old, the building with its distinctive chimneys remains in the spotlight as work continues on its regeneration. We went along to visit the site to witness the construction work underway and understand the scale of the 42 acre project.
The site tour was hosted by contractor Skanska, as part of the Open Doors project. Our group consisted largely of interested members of the public keen to understand the inner workings of the building and a construction site. Clad in our five-point PPI, we all ventured onto the site to learn more about its history and the complex process of its renovation.
What strikes you initially is the sheer size of the structure. The power station, whilst imposing from a distance, is awe inspiring up close. The vast cavernous hall, currently without a roof, is alive with activity. Some of Europe’s tallest cranes stretch towards the sky, piling machines bore into the ground, and scaffolding surrounds the chimneys. Getting this machinery into position has been no easy task, requiring manoeuvring through the tight entrances to the hall.
Although not visible from the exterior, the site buzzes with hundreds of construction workers. In keeping with the values of preserving the history of the site, numerous sub-contractors from all over the world have been commissioned to work on different parts of the renovation. The same company who manufactured the original bricks will be providing the new bricks. The four chimneys, which have been dismantled and rebuilt due to years of damage caused by emissions, are built using the same materials as the original, although with reinforced steel.
That’s not to say that the damaged materials from the station aren’t being used. The girders formerly on the roof – which had to be removed due to years of damage from being exposed to the elements – are now being used inside the main hall to hold the walls of the power station in place. Nor has the wildlife been forgotten. Two peregrine falcons nest in the site, totally undisturbed.
Much has been made in the media about the private homes and the business lettings from the scheme. However it is important to remember that the main Turbine Hall, which will have retail and restaurants, will be open to the general public, ensuring that this much loved building remains a key part of London’s landscape for years to come.