Architecture: Arise Lord Rogers. Arise Battersea

Richard Rogers, everybody's favourite architect (especially Blair's) is a man with a plan or two. Plans for the Millennium, plans for the Government and his place in it and, oh yes, for a fabulous place on the Thames. By Peter Popham

"There is now a social group that wants to live in town," says Marco Goldschmied, a founding partner in Richard Rogers's firm, "in places like Manhattan this group has always existed but in London it has had to make do with flats in Bayswater... We're guilty in the post-war era of having created two classes: an underclass that went into flats, and those who've made it who live in houses, however small. By apartments we tend to mean 20s or 30s mansion blocks which were pretty grim by and large and not capable of much lift. The basic concept is too tight, too inward- looking. It's different in Switzerland or Holland or Germany or France, where apartments have always been some of the best residences. In England they have been for the relief of poverty. Basically if you'd made it you lived in a house made of bricks. And much of that culture actually remains."

Home of stray dogs, a long defunct fun fair and power station and a single Grade I listed building, Battersea is not one of the most obviously glorious corners of central London. Its dingy name was partially rehabilitated in the 1980s by an invasion of the young middle class, colonising its Victorian terraces. But now one particular Battersea address is set to become among the most desired and fashionable in London.

Battersea Thames Rise, a block of luxury flats due to begin construction next month, marks the return of Richard Rogers to residential work. In fact, with 101 flats, it will be much the largest residential building his practice has undertaken. But its significance is larger than that. It marks the return of the tower block - in a sleek, expensive new guise - to official esteem. It marks the recognition by planning authorities of what is required in terms of housing densities if "brownfield" sites are to be fully exploited, and unspoiled countryside kept that way. It is also a concrete demonstration - while the fate of his Millennium plan for Greenwich Peninsula and his scheme to redevelop the South Bank are still up in the air - of what Richard Rogers seeks to do for the river he calls, with characteristic hyperbole, "the greatest leisure park, practically, in the world."

The site of Battersea Thames Rise is fairly unprepossessing, and a good example of the haphazard and cheerless ways in which London's riverside has been developed up to now. St Mary's Church, completed in 1777, Battersea's prettiest ornament, addresses the river with typical Georgian aplomb. Everything else around it merely exploits the river or ignores it. The redundant Hovis flour mill which the Rogers block will replace fronts baldly on to the waterside, with rather less presence than a giant loaf of bread. In contrast to the elegant warehouses of Docklands further downstream, this one looks as if it was designed on the back of an envelope by the principal Miller. A housing estate next door to the east is striving by sheer willpower to move to Milton Keynes - that is the extent of its participation in the metropolitan drama. Finally, behind the site, rise the standard London sub-Corbusian tower blocks, dumped here with the standard ideological inanity. If you had wanted to abolish this place's sense of place, you could not have set about it more rigorously.

The redundant mill was the development site offered by British Land to the Richard Rogers Partnership and its team, led by Goldschmied. Doffing the cap to fashionable ideas about recycling, the architects considered converting the existing building into flats, but opted instead, wisely, to clear the site. In its place they will erect a block that will lend a desperately needed element of grandeur to this section of the river, while reaching out the hand of friendship to St Mary's Church.

Instead of coming to the water's edge like the Hovis block, Battersea Thames Rise will slant diagonally across the site. It consists of five connected blocks which rise in steps from four storeys - the block closest to the church - to 20 storeys for the block closest to the riverside. The slanting position of the block means that the present small, cramped patch of greenery between the church and the river will be expanded into a generous public park.

All the flats will have river views, and the simple, linear form of the block imparts a similar simplicity to the layouts of apartments: all the living rooms, glazed from floor to ceiling, look out on the river and the sunset in the west; while all the bedrooms, faced with terracotta tile and glass, face east. "Usually the sun sets in exactly the wrong place for where the view is," comments Rogers. "Here you get all the bedrooms on the east and all the living rooms on the west, which is just for once ideal."

The individual flats vary in size from 500 square feet (on the market for around pounds 300,000) to penthouses of up to 3,000 square feet, which will cost around pounds 3.5m each. "The penthouses are going to be magnificent," says Rogers, "rather like those penthouses you sometimes see around Paris. One or two of them are so big they practically could be artist's studios."

Rogers and Goldschmied are speaking in Rogers's own vast apartment, carved out of a handsome terraced house in Chelsea and spacious enough to have done service as a studio for Jackson Pollock. Like Marco Goldschmied, who is a product of Trieste, Harrogate, London, and Milan, Rogers with his Italian roots is a suitable exponent of apartment living; though both men are careful not to rubbish the British obsession with houses and gardens, they are in no doubt that flat living near the centre of a vibrant city like London is, almost for the first time ever, becoming a fashionable, rational choice.

So what is happening now in London is a sort of revolution, and it is under way on all sides. As companies vacate big central office blocks like the Shell Centre, both because back-up operations can now be efficiently performed out of the capital and because even 1970s office blocks are inadequate receptacles for new technology, the brave new urbanites snap them up. This newspaper's former headquarters just north of the City, remembered as a drab, dirty, characterless 1960s cornflake packet, has been reborn as The Lexington, the last word in metropolitan living. Marathon House on Marylebone Road, a cruelly minimal Miesian slab,is being recreated as luxury apartments. A swathe of offices south of St Paul's, brilliantly located for the new cultural nexus defined by the Globe Theatre and the Bankside Tate, could go the same way. There are many other examples.

So Rogers is riding a wave of the future when he says, "We very much believe that densely populated, compact cities have tremendous advantages for the people living in them, and that to have life, work and leisure all within walking distance is the ideal situation." Thousands say amen, and are endorsing him with enormous mortgages.

The view of Britain's most famous planning guru, Professor Peter Hall, is that accommodating the vast number of new households that will require housing by the year 2010 will necessitate the building of numerous new towns on greenfield sites.

The opinion of the last secretary of state for the environment, John Gummer (and Rogers believes he was an outstanding minister), was that by intensively developing brownfield sites a good part of the problem could be solved without invading virgin countryside. Hall may be right when he asserts that such developments can address only a fraction of the problem. But there is no disputing that the present rush to buy high- priced flats in the heart of London is a stunning vote of confidence in the vitality and the future of the capital.

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Creep show: Tim Cockerill in ‘Spider House’

TVEnough to make ardent arachnophobes think twice

Arts and Entertainment
Steven, Ella Jade and Sarah in the boardroom
tvThe Apprentice contestants take a battering from the business mogul
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Jewel in the crown: drawings from ‘The Letter for the King’, an adventure about a boy and his mission to save a medieval realm
Arts and Entertainment
Juergen Wolf won the Young Masters Art Prize 2014 with his mixed media painting on wood, 'Untitled'
Arts and Entertainment
Iron Man and Captain America in a scene from
filmThe upcoming 'Black Panther' film will feature a solo black male lead, while a female superhero will take centre stage in 'Captain Marvel'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Imperial War Museum, pictured, has campaigned to display copyrighted works during the First World War centenary
Arts and Entertainment
American Horror Story veteran Sarah Paulson plays conjoined twins Dot and Bette Tattler
tvReview: Yes, it’s depraved for the most part but strangely enough it has heart to it
Arts and Entertainment
The mind behind Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin

Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Dorothy in Return to Oz

film Unintentionally terrifying children's movies to get you howling (in fear, tears or laughter)
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Robert James-Collier as under-butler Thomas

TVLady Edith and Thomas show sad signs of the time
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
The Dad's Army cast hit the big screen

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning?
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

    "I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
    Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

    11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

    Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
    Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

    Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

    The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
    Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

    The school that means business

    Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
    10 best tablets

    The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

    They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
    Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

    Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

    The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
    Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

    Pete Jenson's a Different League

    Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
    John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
    The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

    The killer instinct

    Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
    Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

    Clothing the gap

    A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

    The Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain