Battersea Power Station, which was built between 1930 and 1955, is situated a few miles south of Marble Arch on the south bank of the River Thames in London, facing the borough of Chelsea. The decommissioned power station is one of the best known landmarks in London and an excellent example of Victorian architecture. It is also the largest brick building in Europe, notable for its original Art Deco interiors and decor. The Battersea Power Station was purchased by a Malaysian Consortium for £400m in July 2012.
The area surrounding the site is characterised by a mix of residential, commercial, and industrial uses, with the presence of warehouses as well as rail infrastructure. Battersea Park, situated on the banks of the Thames towards the west, is an important element in the makeup of the neighbourhood.
Battersea Power Station has been at the centre of architectural debate over the past years as a plethora of developers and architects have attempted to transform its abandoned shell into a thriving mixed-use project which can benefit London while retaining the protected elements of the listed structure.
Atelier Zündel Cristea’s project envisions the regeneration of the Battersea site within a new park combining leisure and architecture, in creating a popular spot welcoming to all, dedicated to the pleasures of mind and body, replete with unique experiences: a space for learning, relaxation, and discussion; an architectural and cultural village in the heart of the city.
The concept includes a museum of architecture, based on the Parisian Cité de l’Architecture model, which will present a panorama of architecture and cultural heritage from the Middle Ages to today through a series of galleries. A highly varied collection of materials are incorporated to illustrate the major changes that have taken place in international and British architecture throughout the centuries.
The design team tried to keep in mind the principal reasons for why people would visit the new Battersea Museum of Architecture: the opportunity to see and experience architecture while learning about it as a profession and discussing it with others; people watching and mingling amongst fellow visitors; exploring the architectural setting of the power station; revisiting familiar works of art and architecture.
Atelier Zündel Cristea’s aim was to imagine a new Cathedral to Architecture, a building that will challenge the Tate Modern for international acclaim, and establish a new visual reference point for the city. As such, they have introduced the foreign element of a rail into the space of the power station, which will function above all in animating the empty space. It will offer visitors entering the structure a primary pathway, allowing them to take in the essential layout of the building with minimum effort. With the pathway determined by the presence of the rail, the simple fact of moving through the exterior and interior spaces of the station begins to make sense.