Yesterday morning, via Twitter, I spotted a particularly interesting-looking free event taking place yesterday evening. I considered not going, because I needed to be up at stupid o'clock this morning, and because I hadn't anything lined up to post on the blog. And then I thought, don't be so stupid, this is a particularly interesting-looking event, you must go, even if that means getting home late and still going to bed early. So I went, and it was indeed very interesting, and then I set myself the challenge of writing a review of the event on the tube journey home. My phone keyboard kept 'correcting' what I was typing, so I've had to tidy it up a lot afterwards, and add some links, but that's about all. It's very This-Blog-in-2004, but that may not be a bad thing.
On Friday evening I headed to the Royal College of Art, Battersea, for an evening about and inspired by the power station downriver, as part of the Jerwood/FVU Awards programme. First in the presentation was a 15 minute film called Dream City, named after one of the many unrealised projects on this site, in this case several years before the power station was a reality. Alice May Williams' poetic vision invoked the spirit of change over a beautifully shot interplay of historic scenes, current building works and artists impressions. Capturing the unique period with three old chimneys and one new, she reflected eloquently on the area's pre- and post-industrial journey, the building's power now frozen within a high-rise embrace.
Next up to the lectern, architectural critic Owen Hatherley, to deliver an hour long talk on the power station's origins and influences entitled 'Monetising the Ruin'. Having duly referenced the Gilbert Scott dynasty he led us expertly through the decades, from the original two-chimney gothic monolith to the centrepiece of a ghastly crush of boxy apartments. Since the CEGB sold off the building in the early 1980s, a relay of developers have devised ever stranger models for the brick shell's rebirth, including a psychedelic Thirties option with roof space cinemas and a later indoor amusement park resembling a cavernous suburban shopping mall. Was it New Labour's re-embrace of inner city living which led to the conditions for luxury riverside living taking root, allowing the latest Malaysian-backed scheme to finally reach fruition? Owen's talk place-checked several other developments across London and elsewhere, culminating with a slide of the intended nightmarepanorama from Vauxhall round to Battersea, where investors buy boxes in the sky they will rarely live in, and the rest of us live behind, if we're lucky, in better quality older homes. I do enjoy an intelligent polemic.
A rich and animated discussion followed, with many of those contributing having connections to local community groups (and participants battling to be heard above the theatre's automatically wheezing ventilation). If anybody present was looking forward to moving into the new development, or indeed even visiting, they kept very quiet. Also present in the audience was author Peter Watts, who's just finished writing a book about the Power Station and the cavalcade of failed dreams for its redevelopment. It would have been perfect timing had the publication date for Up In Smoke not been in a fortnight's time, as I suspect he'd have shifted several copies on the way out.