My experience with Cabe Design Review has been a rare, honest, informed, and productive conversation with colleagues that care.

Rafael Viñoly, Rafael Viñoly Architects

Smoke finally stopped pumping from Battersea Power Station’s famous chimneys in 1983. Since then several high profile plans for the huge, brick building have collapsed and the crumbling power station was reaching the point of no return. A solution was urgently needed for the iconic site.

The client, Treasury Holdings (now the Battersea Power Station Development Company) and Rafael Viñoly Architects’ hoped to provide this solution. Their grand plans for a new major London asset was assessed by Design Council Cabe’s Design Review panel and after years of work, the owners finally received planning permission in 2010. Rafael Viñoly, principal architect on the scheme, called the Design Reviews an "invaluable asset" in taking the project through its long gestation.

The project

Battersea Power Station’s vast brick walls, cathedral-like spaces and four white chimneys have a special place in British culture. However, the Grade II listed 1930s building is also in dire need of sensitive and very expensive restoration. This will be one of the largest and most ambitious developments in London.

The restored and rejuvenated power station sits at the heart of this huge proposal, but it is only part of the challenge. The development company plans to transform the 38-acre site into a new town centre for London. A prime location on the banks of the Thames, the project includes 3,500 flats, a hotel, offices, shops, restaurants, cinemas, a concert venue, and London’s largest atrium. 

The advantage of Design Review is that it's independent and free of political influence; its focus is on quality of design.

Tony Edwards, Cabe Design Review panellist

The challenge

The redevelopment of Battersea Power Station was seen as an incredible opportunity to create an exciting and transformative destination in London. The Design Review panel sought to ensure that only the highest quality design was employed, and that the destination not only looked impressive but catered for those working, living and visiting the area.  

The scheme needed to: 

  • protect a much-loved historic building by giving it a new lease of life
  • rejuvenate disused industrial land to supply new homes 
  • redevelop the riverfront to provide new public space
  • provide space for sustainable businesses to create jobs 
  • draw people to a place that had been off-limits for decades.

On top of these opportunities, the development had to fit seamlessly into plans for the neighbouring Nine Elms site, which is of similar scale. It was vital that the two developments complement each other.  

Outcome

Tony Edwards is a Design Council Cabe BEE who sat on the panel. He describes Design Review a "critical friend" to the Battersea developer team. "The advantage of the Design Review panel approach is that it's independent and free of political influence; its focus is on quality of design and a wish to see good schemes built.”

The Design Review panel, which also included award-winning architects Keith Bradley and Simon Alford, worked with the masterplan from the earliest stages. It united developers, planners and architects across Battersea and Nine Elms to ensure cohesion on the two projects. Design Council Cabe advised across all developments and worked to keep the central focus on the cherished power station landmark. Plans to build an enormous eco-tower that would overshadow the power station were later dropped.

Cabe Design Review resulted in an improved design for the power station

Seema Manchanda, London Borough of Wandsworth,

Design Council Cabe’s final feedback, in live review sessions and by letter, was crucial in achieving a masterplan that not only secured planning permission but will create an environment that changes a swathe of the city for the better. 

Seema Manchanda, assistant director of planning and environmental services for the London Borough of Wandsworth, says Design Review is a “powerful tool” for developers. "The Cabe Design Review helped inform the development of the masterplan and focused the design team’s attention on issues such as the connection between old and new structures. These have resulted in an improved design for the power station” .

Work began on the site in 2013.

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