I've always hankered after taking a photograph of Battersea Power Station, but in its neglected and vandalised state this has proved difficult. I just wanted to be able to demonstrate what a stunning building this is, and a silhouette seemed to be the only solution, considering that so much is now missing. And I love those cranes that were used to unload cargoes of coal from the Thames. At last, the opportunity came yesterday lunchtime as I emerged from Chelsea onto the Embankment and was confronted by this. Snap, snap. What I didn't realise was that Battersea is apparently two power stations- one two chimney structure built in the 1930s, another identical one in the 50s, giving it the fantastic four chimney outline. The exterior was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (phone boxes, Liverpool Cathedral) and is still the largest brick structure in Europe. Going at full bore it got through a million tonnes of coal a year. There's a shot of it in The Beatles' film Help, it's on an album cover for Pink Floyd's Animals (with a barrage balloon pig sailing over it), and perhaps it was appearances like this that started us appreciating hitherto disregarded but important buildings. But since decommissioning in 1983, successive would-be developers have been and gone, after well and truly trashing the building. What a temple to industry this would have made, the art deco turbine hall once again humming with giant dynamos and lit with arcing flashes of electricity to show us just how beautifully exciting these powerhouses were.
I am a designer, writer and photographer who spends all his time looking at England, particularly buildings and the countryside. But I have a leaning towards the slightly odd and neglected, the unsung elements that make England such an interesting place to live in. I am the author and photographer of over 25 books, in particular Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2006), More from Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2007), Cross Country (Wiley 2011), The Cigarette Papers (Frances Lincoln 2012) and Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012)