Battersea Power Station opens it’s doors to the public for Open House 2013

The four pillared former power station at Battersea has become an iconic part of London’s skyline. Left to decay over the years since de-commissioning it has been at the centre of a number of aborted redevelopment plans which have come to nothing and all the while crumbling as the elements begin to take over.

Now however work is happening and the area around Nine Elms Lane and Battersea will be utterly transformed. Already work is well under way on the new American Embassy just a short walk away and the go ahead has been given to the Northern Line Extension which will see new stations built at Nine Elms and Battersea, linking an area which has been poorly served in the past by London’s transport network.

For many years though Battersea Power Station has remained a mystery, blocked off from public view it has served as the location for various film shoots and occasional promotional activity by big sponsors keen to use the building as a backdrop. This weekend however all that changed as the building was opened to the public for the very first time as part of the Open House weekend. It was a one off opportunity to see inside the shell of this iconic building before development begins in earnest, and finally, work begins to transform this neglected part of the city.

Crowds gathered from the entrance at Chelsea Bridge all the way back to the pavillion in Battersea Park such was the public appitite for this building. A short walk took you from the embankment into a small manicured grassy area before heading into the station and through a covered walkway into station B and out the back. Because of the poor state of so much of the building the only areas safe to visit were those which had walkways covered with netting to safeguard against falling masonry. There are also other dangers present in the building, big rats, ravenous pigeons and a few foxes who call the place home. With all the crowds most were well out of site but come the evening, they are there and they take over.

The queues were a bit unwieldy such was the popularity of the event but lessons from the Saturday, when they became difficult to manage and the gates had to close early, were learnt the day after leading to a dramatic reduction in time to get through. In total 40,000 people passed through the building over the weekend making it one of the most popular openings in Open House history.

Battersea power station as seen from Chelsea Bridge is as iconic as they come in building terms

Battersea power station as seen from Chelsea Bridge is as iconic as they come in building terms

A view of the station from the embankment at Nine Elms

A view of the station from the embankment at Nine Elms

Volunteers from Open House return after a briefing

Volunteers from Open House return after a briefing

Queues along the embankment to Chelsea Bridge

Queues along the embankment to Chelsea Bridge

And beyond all the way to the pagoda in Battersea Park

And beyond all the way to the pagoda in Battersea Park

Whilst the public were queuing, this wading heron was just chilling out on the mudflats flanking the station

Whilst the public were queuing, this wading heron was just chilling out on the mudflats flanking the station

Two imposing cranes sit directly opposite the entrance to the station on the banks of the Thames

Two imposing cranes sit directly opposite the entrance to the station on the banks of the Thames

Once inside the queues were long and although they struggled on Saturday they moved a lot better on the Sunday

Once inside the queues were long and although they struggled on Saturday they moved a lot better on the Sunday

A short covered walkway led into a temporary hall with information and Battersea Power Station staff explaining what the plans were for redevelopment

A short covered walkway led into a temporary hall with information and Battersea Power Station staff explaining what the plans were for redevelopment

A model of the station with the real thing behind

A model of the station with the real thing behind

The covered hall from the walkway

The covered hall from the walkway

Visitors could step out into fenced off area in the middle of the station

Visitors could step out into fenced off area in the middle of the station

The A Station built in the 1930's wasn't accessible but could be seen sporting some random paintings

The A Station built in the 1930’s wasn’t accessible but could be seen sporting some random paintings

The roof has long gone and now the pigeons nest on the battlements, slowly destroyed the infrastructure

The roof has long gone and now the pigeons nest on the battlements, slowly destroyed the infrastructure

The windows from the inside of the building

The windows from the inside of the building

The station is in two parts, A and B, station A was built in the 1930's and was closed off to the public

The station is in two parts, A and B, station A was built in the 1930’s and was closed off to the public

The B side is still covered in part but still requires netting to be installed over the walkway.  This part was built in the 1950's

The B side is still covered in part but still requires netting to be installed over the walkway. This part was built in the 1950’s

A close up of one of the windows high up at the other side of Station B

A close up of one of the windows high up at the other side of Station B

The steel girders the make up the structure are rusting away

The steel girders the make up the structure are rusting away

Through the girders

Through the girders

The walk takes you through B station and into a derelict yard.  Looking up the towers loom large

The walk takes you through B station and into a derelict yard. Looking up the towers loom large

Looking over from the yard to the other side of the building

Looking over from the yard to the other side of the building

Despite it's derelict state there is still glass in the windows

Despite it’s derelict state there is still glass in the windows

The station as viewed from Kirtling Street

The station as viewed from Kirtling Street

A model of Battersea Power Station on the way out towards Vauxhall

A model of Battersea Power Station on the way out towards Vauxhall

The sign on the way out through to Nine Elms and Vauxhall

The sign on the way out through to Nine Elms and Vauxhall

Open House London runs from 21st to 22nd September and includes over 800 properties opening their doors to the public for free. Battersea Power Station was included for the first time, opening it’s doors for a one off occasion allowing the public to see the building in it’s current state prior to redevelopment.

For more Inspiring City posts about Open House try:

Open House London 2012