Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Battersea will never be pretty

Went for a nose around the inside of Battersea Power Station last week - the first (and possibly last) time the public have been allowed inside. It's been opened up as a venue for the Serpentine Gallery's China Power Station Part:1 exhibition which I have to say is very atmospheric - as you walk into Turbine Hall B you find yourself transplanted into what seems to be a war zone; an empty shell of a building riddled with holes - oh yes, and there's a tank in the doorway. The venue does a great job of mentally transporting you away from London and rushing and crowds and shopping, and just makes you stop. and think.

The Power Station is ugly, but that doesn't necessarily mean it doesn't have character. You can't help thinking that when this space is filled with shops, restaurants, cinemas, and whatever else the developers decide they can make money out of, it's going to stifle a large part of that soul. After seeing the Tate Galleries on the South Bank and also in Liverpool, it's clear that buildings so huge and seemingly impossibly proportioned can have a dignified second life. I doubt this one will - part of what makes it so ugly beautiful is its quiet melancholy and absorbing atmosphere, and when all of that scarred steelwork and bruised and battered interior is covered up I think it might just become ugly. But that's quite sad in itself... oh dear, going round in circles now aren't I...