If you love Battersea Power Station, there's currently a rare opportunity to visit. Not visit properly, there's no getting inside the boiler house or turbine hall. But you can wander up close to the northern façade, to the area between t...
If you love Battersea Power Station, there's currently a rare opportunity to visit. Not visit properly, there's no getting inside the boiler house or turbine hall. But you can wander up close to the northern façade, to the area between the power station and the Thames, somewhere there's been no free public access for years. It's all part of the Chelsea Fringe festival, a three week artistic intrusion taking place capital-wide. And it's also part of the developers' masterplan to soften up the populace so that they welcome the impending luxury transformation. Later on expect high-end stores, restaurants and health spas. But for now there's a pop-up park with freshly-laid turf, artistic huts and a van selling crumpets. Do come.
You approach from the southern end of Chelsea Bridge, near the entrance to Battersea Park. The apartments alongside are part of Chelsea Bridge Wharf, a glass carbuncle which hints at the development to come on the adjacent site. Normally the path below the railway bridge is sealed off, but now at weekends a security guard will open up and beckon you through. All the trains out of Victoria rumble overhead, indeed there's a wonderful view of the power station immediately after you cross the river. It won't last. The first phase of the new development involves the construction of an arc of apartments called Circus West, rising up to seventeen storeys in height, and they'll block off the direct line of sight. You won't be moving in.
The main Circus West building snakes along the western edge of the Power Station, wrapping its art deco industrial splendour in a refective glass skin. All of the apartments have enclosed winter gardens that provide outside space that is useable all year round. The penthouses have rooftop terraces and private gardens that will have spectacular views of Chelsea, the river and the Power Station – truly remarkable spaces. The residents of Circus West will also have access to a private garden and a 5,000 sq ft private residents’ club. Entered through a triple height lobby area, it is home to a private bar and private dining space, as well as a library, business centre, private cinema and a host of additional amenities for the benefit of residents.At present Circus West is an expanse of rubble awaiting transformation, so it's fortunate most future buyers live overseas where they can't see it. The riverside park beyond looks considerably greener, probably because all the grass has recently been brought in from elsewhere. A dry garden has been planted, with tufty stems and wispy stalks emerging from gravel - quick, easy and effective. Elsewhere are some extremely attractive planters, and an audio hammock, plus a trio of stone petal seats you can buy for a few grand. On the ground you'll find a mass of pink building blocks, entitled Bloom, which last saw the light of day in Victoria Park during the Olympics. Elsewhere some hollowed-out wooden blocks have been installed, permitting visitors to step inside and stare out through coloured filters at a confined view of the power station. Because oh yes, it's the power station you've come to see.
A sheer brick edifice rises across the lawn beyond a protective fence. Two ribbed chimneys scrape the sky, far higher than they've looked from further away these past few decades. The developers tell us they'll have to come down and be rebuilt, and we probably believe them, don't we? Iron struts run between the towers, the intermediate windows long blown out allowing sight of the empty boiler house interior beyond. Within a few years you'll be able to buy haute couture and tapas in there, in a kind of Westfield Plus that the new local residents will adore. For now the place echoes with silence, except for every couple of minutes when a plane flies over, which isn't something you'll see mentioned in the penthouse brochures.
An element of considerable character is provided by a couple of cranes on the waterside. They stand at the end of a jetty