Chelsea FC launched a bid today for the Battersea power station, the club’s first bold step towards securing a venue in which to construct a new stadium.
Chelsea has been in search of a new stadium for some time now, as the historic Stamford Bridge is transitioning out of being traditional and becoming just plain out of date. The 46,000 seats it currently holds is by far the smallest of Europe’s major powers, giving the club a sizable disadvantage in terms of revenue at the gate.
The Battersea power station could be developed into a 60,000-seat venue for much cheaper than the reported £600 million it would cost to renovate Stamford Bridge to hold that amount.
Here are four things about the Battersea power station you did not know.
Whether you live in New Delhi, the US, China or right across the Thames, you have seen the building before. The Battersea power station has made its way through the history of pop culture, as its four distinct smoke towers have given it an aesthetic and symbolic message of power, industry and greed, depending on the artist depicting it.
Alfred Hitchcock used it in the opening of his 1936 film, Sabotage. Monty Python used a control room in his 1983 film, The Meaning of Life. Alfonso Curaron had it in his 2006 film, Children of Men. And Christopher Nolan shot his 2007 film, The Dark Knight, in its stripped-out interior.
But it may be most well-known as the model for the building on the 1977 album cover for Pink Floyd’s Animals. The lone pink pig flying over the building became a symbol for a generation attempting to fly away from the constraints of society.
When the Battersea was first built, it was a major concern to the local residents for the potential for pollution. Parliament heavily debated the pros and cons of such a project and ultimately decided it was worth the risk to provide power to its citizens.
Prior to World War II, the smoke stacks were fitted with new devices called “scrubbers,” which were the first attempt to try and minimize sulfur escaping into the atmosphere, a byproduct of the coal-burning used to create energy.
The test itself was effective, limiting the amount sulfur being put out. However, the process used to do this caused a runoff into the Thames, killing much of the wildlife in it.
Though it was not a successful trial in itself, it was one of the first attempts to modernize industry and make it more aware of the concerns of pollution. It is hard to believe that we would be where we are concerning eco-friendliness if it weren’t for this early test.
When the Battersea was built in 1934, it was considered one of the great modern architectural feats. Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was brought on to help transform the building from a dull eyesore on the public into a work of art the community could be proud of.
This excerpt from an article by Gavin Stamp sums it up best:
Scott succeeded in humanizing the great bulk of the structure without denying its industrial character. This he did by composing the planes of masonry as dramatic masses and by choosing fine materials—Blockley bricks from Worcestershire laid with sand-colored mortar—as well as by relieving the great planes of brickwork with bands of non-historical ornament. The upper parts of the walls are recessed and given vertical fluting to create an Art Deco effect—what John Betjeman called “jazz modern”—while the tall reinforced concrete chimneys were modeled like fluted Classical columns. It must be admitted, however, that Scott’s contribution at Battersea—unlike his later work at Bankside—was largely cosmetic. The great turbine hall inside Battersea A, lined with faience-clad pilasters to make it a true temple of power, and the astonishing Art Deco control room hidden inside the brick shell, were both the creations of Halliday. These deserve preservation quite as much as the exterior.
Though it may seem a bit out of date today, the many bids that have been placed on the site to resurrect its beauty still show there is a market for this brilliant piece of art.
The Battersea was completed just years before the outbreak of World War II. As the biggest supplier of energy for Britain’s capital, it became a high-priority target for Hitler and his Luftwaffe commanders during the siege of the Battle of Britain.
For nearly half a year, Hitler’s planes flew over London, driving the citizens underground with its devastating air raids, but never once did the power station buckle under the bombs. During the entire war, not once did the station stop producing the power its citizens desperately needed. There was even a point where the defiant workers began to use bank notes to power the turbines when coal was in short order.
To this day, it stays a symbol of the perseverance of good over evil and deserves to be honored as one of the great achievements in mankind’s history that helped win the war.
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