Minor British Institutions: Battersea Power Station

Sean O'Grady
Sunday 23 October 2011 03:07

Only in Britain could a much-loved national monument be allowed to decay for more than two decades. And yet that has been the pitiful fate of Giles Gilbert Scott's 1935 masterpiece, Battersea Power Station. It is shameful, given that it is an integral part of the London skyline. Indeed, since the demise of the Crystal Palace in 1936, it is pretty much the symbol of south London.

In any case, the "upside down ping-pong table" seems unlikely to last another decade. Its windows are smashed, its roof caved in, and one of its chimneys is held up by scaffolding. It is on English Heritage's "Buildings at Risk" register, which seems an understatement.

Battersea finds some use as a phantasmagoric film set, but all the proposals for theme parks and the like have come to nothing. The transformation of Scott's Bankside power station into Tate Modern is a standing indictment of the astonishing failure to preserve Battersea. Where's the Lotto money when we need it?

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