Not Just Another Brick in the Wall
Two firms that made the bricks to build Battersea Power Station in the last century have been tasked with hand-making 1.75 million more that match the originals as the iconic Grade II* listed building is restored and brought back to life.
It will take up to two-years to make sure the new bricks blend in smoothly with the old ones, which have weathered to various colours and shades, to ensure the character of one of the largest brick buildings ever built is preserved.
When the Power Station, which has stood empty since the 1980s, reopens in 2020, it will have a mixture of office space – the vast majority of which has been taken by Apple as their UK campus, stunning new homes, an events venue and a huge retail space housing a collection of British and international brands as well as a food hall.
The original bricks, known as Golden Brown Pressed, came from Northwick Brick and Tiles, a firm founded by the World War I hero and art collector Captain E G Spencer-Churchill, a cousin of Winston Churchill and friend of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the designer of the Power Station. Family owned Northcot Brick, (formerly known as Northwick Brick and Tiles) is still based at the same Gloucestershire quarry as it was all those years ago with access to the same Lower Jurassic and Middle Lias clay that was used for the original bricks. They will be providing 1.3 million bricks while Blockleys in Telford, Shropshire, part of the Michelmersh Brick Holdings Group will be making another 430,000 bricks.
The 1.3 million bricks from Northcot will be used to restore parts of the Power Station built in the 1930s and 1940s while the 430,000 bricks from Blockleys will be used on the final parts of the building dating from the 1950s.
Working with a team of specialists led by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, advised by Purcell for heritage aspects, Paye Stoneworks and Restoration and alongside Historic England and Wandsworth Borough Council, Northcot has created two bespoke varieties of “Battersea Blend” bricks and will have a team of five brick makers blend and pack the bricks by hand. Michelmersh Brick Holdings has created a bespoke blend of Blockleys brick for the Power Station project. Each blend is composed of several different types of handmade, Imperial–sized bricks mixed in precise percentages so as to duplicate those found in different parts of the Station.
Simon Jenner, COO of the Battersea Power Station Development Company, said: “Battersea Power Station is an extraordinary and challenging building to redevelop and restore so naturally it calls for extraordinary bricks. That’s why it’s so satisfying to use bricks from the same quarries that supplied the Power Station when it was built, custom blended to preserve our unique heritage.”
Sebastien Ricard, Director at WilkinsonEyre, said: “An attention to detail and respect for the historic industrial nature of the building fabric has been paramount in the formulation of the new architecture at Battersea Power Station. WilkinsonEyre has been working closely with Purcell, BPSDC, Historic England and Wandsworth Council to restore the building to its original glory.
“Being able to achieve the true like-for-like repairs by reusing the original brick blends and pointing is essential to this approach.”
David Hills, Conservation Architect, Purcell, commented: “Our search to find the perfect match for the brickwork at Battersea Power Station has been exhaustive, uncovering not one but two original suppliers. The meticulous study undertaken to formulate the three bespoke blends sets new standards for brickwork conservation.
“In total, we use 18 individual brick types in unique sizes to achieve seamless repairs, preserving and celebrating the streamlined aesthetic of this iconic London landmark.”
Adrian Paye, CEO of PAYE Stonework and Restoration, said: “Attention to detail is essential for the successful restoration of historic brickwork. Understanding that Battersea Power Station was constructed over a twenty year period in three distinct phases, each one having its own subtle character of brick blends and mortar variations, has been key to achieving the perfect aesthetic. It has been fascinating to investigate, learn and understand. We have restored brickwork at Kew Palace, Hampton Court Palace, St. James’s Palace, and Kensington Palace, and it is a privilege to now include this 20th century icon onto that list.”
Michael Brown, Managing Director at Northcot Brick, said: “We’re very proud of our company’s history and we’ve always specialised in unusual, custom bricks. This is the sort of job we really enjoy, and it’s especially pleasing to be recreating a piece of architectural history – the original Golden Brown bricks that made the Power Station what it is.”
Frank Hanna, Joint-CEO of Michelmersh Brick Holdings, commented: “This project has been particularly unique due to the requirement to reconfigure the Blockleys plant with new equipment to deliver a very accurate and bespoke sized brick. The bespoke product with its specific colour blend complements the existing contextual built environment of Battersea Power Station, matching the conservational standards of the original existing facades. It’s a great achievement for the Blockleys team, and Michelmersh is incredibly proud to be involved in such an iconic project.”
One reason for the Power Station’s iconic worldwide status is of course its appearance on the cover of Pink Floyd’s seminal 1977 album, Animals. But no matter what Pink Floyd may have sung in another of their famous lyrics, a brick – at the Power Station at least – is not just another brick in the wall.
- Six million bricks were used in the original building of the Power Station with seven different types of bricks being used inside and out.
- Each brickmaker throws between 800-1,000 bricks a day.
- It will take approximately 18 months to install all the bricks.
- One of the engineering bricks in the Power Station wash towers used for its acid-resisting properties, was also used in the foundations of the Empire State Building.
- Purcell is a firm of specialist Architects and Heritage Consultants established for over 70 years, caring for some of the nations’ best-loved buildings. Their project at Cardigan Castle won the 2017 Channel 4 Great British Buildings Restoration of the Year, beating off competition from all over the UK.
- PAYE Stonework and Restoration carries out specialist projects on several royal buildings and has been awarded the Royal Warrant.
- The distinctive wash towers below the chimneys were lined with red Accrington bricks which are so hard they had already been used for the foundations of the Empire State Building.
- WilkinsonEyre was appointed in 2013 for the refurbishment of the iconic Grade II* listed Battersea Power Station. The proposed designs are consistent with and sympathetic to Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s masterpiece, with the chimneys and turbine halls remaining the dominant features of the building.
- The designs respect the integrity of the historic landmark whilst also creating a new state-of-the-art events space; shops, restaurants and cafés; a public viewing platform; large open-plan office spaces; and a series of villas, apartments and penthouses positioned around a garden square above the Boiler House, and to either side of the Power Station.
- Apple will be the largest office tenant across six floors of the central Boiler House inside the historic icon.
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About Battersea Power Station:
- Battersea Power Station is one of central London’s largest, most visionary and eagerly anticipated new town centres in which roughly half the development will comprise shops, restaurants and office space. In addition, there will be a six-acre public park, a town square and a new tube station (scheduled to be within Zone 1).
- The Battersea Power Station project covers 42 acres and includes 3.5m sq ft of mixed commercial space, together with 4,364 new homes.
- The successful regeneration of Battersea Power Station will create 20,000 new jobs, inject £20bn into the UK economy and create a funding mechanism for the first major tube line extension since the Millennium. A new NHS medical facility is also being built.
- The Battersea Power Station Foundation supports local charities and community projects. Over £3.3m has been awarded since it launched in 2016; on average, £207,000 is granted per month and the largest grant awarded was to Battersea Arts Centre for £305,000.
- Circus West Village is the neighbourhood centre for the first part of the development. It opened to the public in Spring 2017 and since then over 700,000 people have visited to enjoy the ongoing programme of events and the new shops and restaurants.
- Residents started to move in to Circus West early in 2017 and continue to do so. The Village Hall, a new performance space, has opened at Circus West Village and a new MBNA Thames Clippers River Bus service commenced on 1 November 2017.
- The Battersea Academy of Skills Excellence (BASE), the development company’s bespoke jobs and training service created for those living locally, was launched in 2016. It is focused on matching people with jobs at Battersea as well as providing training relevant to the job pipeline at the development.
- Battersea Power Station is owned by a consortium of Malaysian investors comprised of Sime Darby Property, S P Setia and the Employees’ Provident Fund. Management of the development is being undertaken by the British-based Battersea Power Station Development Company.