London's iconic Battersea Power Station, once dismal and menacing enough to grace Pink Floyd's Animals, is one step closer to an ambitious rebirth as massive, eco-friendly mixed-use development by Rafael Viñoly. The $8.2 billion plan will include 3,700 homes, 1.6 million square feet of office space, and 500,000 square feet of retail, ringing the power plant in undulating, terraced waves. The power station itself will get a stylish green roof and a shopping arcade inside; a new, carbon-free power plant will be buried below it, but it's unclear exactly what, or how.
The plant, empty since its closure in 1983, is a historic landmark in the U.K.—and an endangered one, making English Heritage's Buildings at Risk list and the World Monuments Fund's Most Endangered Sites list. It's a beautiful, art deco behemoth (the biggest brick building in Europe) but its also slowly falling apart, and a series of redevelopment attempts over the last two decades have gone nowhere. Viñoly's plan weathered its share of criticism too, mostly centered around an early scheme that included a thousand-foot-tall "eco-tower" or, more oxymoronically titled "eco-chimney."
The tower would have ventilated a biosphere-like "eco-dome" that would have sheltered a 19-acre office campus as a sort of energy-saving greenhouse. It also would've sullied views of Westminster. Royal Institute of British Architects president George Ferguson called Viñoly a "major menace to London." Historic preservation groups called it "ridiculous," but Viñoly, for his part, was unmoved. "People are not exactly queuing up to redevelop the place," he said. "If this doesn't happen, nobody saves that building."
Now, finally, it seems like it will. The tower shrunk by 150 feet in late 2008, and was scrapped completely last year. London mayor Boris Johnson finally came around on the plan, announcing his support for it in February but noting that it needed more affordable housing. And, in Viñoly's biggest win, the U.K.'s Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment approved it last week after a record six passes. The proposal is now in front of city planning.
[More images at Inhabitat]