Battersea Power Station was conceived as the first of the new “superstations” that would provide the electricity for Britain in the 1930s. The basic design was from London Power Company chief engineer Leonard Pearce: but the Company was concerned about criticism and brought in Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, one of the foremost architects of the day, to make the building more beautiful. Scott was also responsible for Britain’s famous red telephone boxes and many other famous buildings.
The Power Station was always intended to take its current four-chimneyed form, but in fact only the ‘A’ Station with the western pair of chimneys was completed to begin with. This had lavish touches such as the majestic bronze doors and impressive wrought-iron staircase leading to the Art Deco control room. Down in the turbine hall, below the polished marble and gleaming machinery led observers to liken the building to a Greek temple devoted to energy.
The ‘B’ station arrived with the eastern chimneys in the early 1950s, producing the layout we see today. Built in more austere times the 'B' Station lacked most of the embellishments of the Station’s first half. It was the most thermally efficient power station of its day when it went into operation, and at its 1950s peak, produced 20 per cent of London’s electricity supply.
Over the course of its life, Battersea Power Station has achieved a place of its own in the public consciousness, perhaps most visibly when Pink Floyd adopted it for their Animals album cover in 1977. The whole structure was listed at Grade II in 1980 and the listing was upgraded to Grade II* status in 2007.
Following the Power Station’s closure in 1983, there have been many plans to redevelop the site, but all have failed – until now. Today’s far-sighted shareholders, S P Setia, Sime Darby and the Employees’ Provident Fund, are finally putting an end to decades of disuse for the Power Station and the riverside on which it stands.