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Thursday24 July 2014

Vinoly's Battersea eco-tower scrapped

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Back to the drawing board for power station developer after mayor signals his opposition

Rafael Viñoly has abandoned controversial plans for a 250m-high tower at the heart of his masterplan for Battersea Power Station in the face of opposition from London mayor Boris Johnson, BD can reveal.

Scaled down plans, missing the signature “eco-chimney”, were presented by Viñoly in person to Cabe’s design review panel last Wednesday after Johnson and his senior planning officials warned the architect and the developer, Treasury Holdings, that he would oppose the scheme because of its impact on the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey world heritage site.

Johnson is overseeing revisions to the capital’s planning guidelines, which are set to outlaw tall buildings at Battersea but allow them in neighbouring Vauxhall.

The scrapping of the £4 billion regeneration project’s centrepiece will come as a major embarrassment to the New York-based architect and his developer, who consistently argued that the tower was an essential part of their proposal, despite having reduced its original 300m height by 50m last December.

Last month Treasury insisted that the tower was a significant part of the project’s viability, and claimed that if it was blocked, “London will be saying it’s in a time warp”.

Sources at local authority Wandsworth Council said Johnson was “very unhappy” with the tower’s height, and that questions had also been raised over claims that the chimney, through which air from the “eco-dome” complex below would be naturally ventilated, was the only way to safeguard the scheme’s green credentials.

“It is a matter of a world heritage centre view, and one that has been in strategic guidance for a long, long time,” a council source said.

“The crucial piece of news that has led to the change has been the mayor’s office letting Treasury Holdings know quite clearly [that it would not back the tower]... and [Viñoly] may have decided in light of that attitude that they needed to modify their scheme.”

“There were lots of people asking questions — on the one hand about whether [the eco-chimney] would actually work [and on the other about whether it was] the only way you could achieve a carbon-neutral scheme,” he added.

Battersea Power Station Community Group member Keith Garner reacted with frustration at the whole saga, saying the tower was “never seriously viable”.

He added: “The developer has wasted everyone’s time for a year when it could have been doing something productive.

“We want to see them repair the listed building on the site.”

Treasury Holdings, which bought the Battersea site in 2007 for £400 million, unveiled the 750,000sq m mixed-use scheme

in June last year. But its tower — set alongside Giles Gilbert Scott’s grade II* listed power station — was widely panned, with former RIBA president George Ferguson labelling Viñoly a “menace to London”.

A spokesman for Treasury denied the scheme had been altered in any way since December.


Viñoly unveils his £4 billion masterplan for Battersea Power Station, shown here in a mock-up created by Battersea Power Station Community Group
Credit: Power Station Community Group
June 2008 Viñoly unveils his £4 billion masterplan for Battersea Power Station, shown here in a mock-up created by Battersea Power Station Community Group

After widespread criticism the masterplan is revised. The chimney is cut by 50m
December 2008 After widespread criticism the masterplan is revised. The chimney is cut by 50m and the "eco-dome" beneath scaled down and relocated closer to the river.

BD’s impression of how the site may have looked when presented to Cabe’s design review panel with the 250m tower missing from the 3D model.
Credit: BD
February 2009 BD’s impression of how the site may have looked when presented to Cabe’s design review panel with the 250m tower missing from the 3D model.


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Readers' comments (6)

  • Having had first hand experience dealing with RVA, I can say I personally found RV has no vision or much ideas to stand for, having a bunch of fresh grads from Ivy league schools working sleepless nights for weeks on end to produce endless options,( in 10 or 20 options for one presentation). where is the "big"idea ? "Green" buildings like this is a lie, a cliche... Do not ruin London's skyline with crap.

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  • Well, perhaps Boris has his uses after all! This was always an abhorrent proposition which which all whom were associated should be ashamed. Obviously the developers are trying to claw-back their substantial investment in the site, but I suspect, in the current economic climate, this ain't going to happen any-time soon. This would be (once again) a good time to have a sensible discussion about regeneration and communities which might even include the possibility of these things not always being commercially driven?

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  • Rafael Viñoly had a very innovative and interesting concept. I'm not saying it was perfect, but it was worth considering. Now it looks like we will just be getting another run-of-the-mill development which is a shame.

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  • Stephen Chen i agree. Also having had first hand experience with established architectural firms claiming 'green' status at the hands of graduates keen to impress. The big picture is perhaps establishing a requirement from our governing bodies (AIA in Australia) of base rate pay for those graduates and experienced archictects that the firms rely heavily upon to deliver the goods. There exists a blatent inequity that keeps spawning out these overambitious proposals without any recognition of the level of profession qualification of the people that actually produce the finished product. The reason why they are overambitious is because the firms have 'nothing to lose' because they are paying 'nothing' to produce it. Student bodies also have to show some integrity.

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  • In the view of developing an idea into a project, RVA had proposed nothing but an indecent display of permanant erection. Well done Boris.

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  • Could it be that there should be a Union for professional Architects ? BAU - British Architects Union. Agenda - to protect jobs and ensure that correct renummeration exists. Just an Idea (with capital 'I')

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