Battersea has always been my landmark of choice in London. It’s dormant power a reminder of a bygone age, this behemoth that once charged a city is long a reminder of the past, a past left behind in the dash for the future. Until …
Now, maybe I consume(d) too much science fiction (if that’s possible) but, Battersea, in its renovation is monstrous and riddled with ominous fears. A dystopian future happening before us. This is the stuff writers like J.G. Ballard dreamed/had nightmares about, an incongruence and dislocating of the senses; what the French call ‘lieu of memory’ (a site of memory) is disappearing before our eyes. This is what they call progress, a dystopian vision within its construction, the decay visible already, cramped luxury. The station has become like the Statue of Liberty in Planet of the Apes (and Escape from New York – if only on the film poster),
Since 1983 the station has acted as a relic to a bygone era, an era of promise, techno-hope, to tech-no-hope but, now it is a reminder of a past within a past. A memory-monument to a new world, one of avarice, quick-fixes and costly shoe-box living spaces. An elite’s enclave.
The Thames skyline now resembles Neu York, Shanghai, Hong Kong et al, other garish and gaudy temples of mammon. Greenwich and Catford dog track are festooned with scaffolding and cubic shells, awaiting the influx of wealthy and privileged or the downright stupid. Probably both.
Canary Wharf and its adjunct areas were a warning of the passionless terrain, the hollow paths, the empty space, the sense of dislocation at odds with our psychic being. This is allied to the clampdown and corporatisation of space, there is no private space anymore, everywhere’s owned by someone and that’s certainly not YOU.
Bradley Garrett sums it up ‘Spot the difference’ the banner tells us. But is it ‘spotting’ the difference that we should be concerned about? Or should we be more concerned whether we will feel the difference?’ He calls it ‘Cosmetic and architectural homicide’ for which I would add ‘psychic’
Traffic smog, paper thin walls, evocative of Harry Harrison’s 1966 novel ‘Make room, Make room’ (the inspiration for the film Soylent Green) a tale of overcrowding, resource shortages and crumbling infrastructure in a city that is in effect a greenhouse. Hmmm, sounds familiar.
For a cool 700k you too can reside in a one-bedroom, four-walled box. ‘All over Battersea, some hope and some despair …’
A beauty in its archaism, an example of an experiment gone wrong reduced to (sur)real estate.
And here’s another imagined existence of bucolic harmony … NOT. This dystopiary, ‘this land of green and plenty now … endorsed by Ab Fab, ex-Avenger Joanna Lumley as ‘a chance to walk through woodlands over one of the greatest rivers in the world’
Rowan Moore in The Observer reviewing the ‘Walkie Talkie’ and its ‘Sky Garden’ and its claims to be ‘iconic’ (whatever that means).
It will be “the UK’s tallest public park” however as Moore writes:
‘The Sky Garden is not “public” when it is the property of the developers Land Securities and Canary Wharf Group, and managed by the events and restaurant business Rhubarb, which boasts “an international reputation catering at the most glamorous private, corporate, sports and charity events from film premieres to royal celebrations”. The Sky Garden will be free to enter from 12 January, but you will have to go through airport-style security, and book at least three days in advance via a website which, for now, is oddly reluctant to let you do so.’
Writing about the destruction of ‘seedy old Soho’ Redrow the ‘developers’ branded it as ‘aspirational luxury’ but the advert was instead deemed a “neo-liberalist capitalist dystopic future-present nightmare”
In the Guardian Oliver Wainwright writes of (Boris) Johnson as the ‘self-styled tsar of novelty infrastructure projects’ in cahoots with ‘the Da Vinci of our day’ Thomas Heatherwick who also came up with the ‘Boris Bus’ … The bridge a ‘private tourist attraction at the whim of a celebrity’ neither garden nor bridge, closed at night, groups register in advance’. An Eden reminder with the ‘Thames now like rest of London … a ’playground for the construction of private fantasies furnished by 60m of public funds’ … a hangout for the rich to hold private functions. All this whilst the surrounding urbania (and rest of UK) have to cut on spending’
‘Boris’ bike, bus, bridge’, at least his legacy’s complete. How caring and sharing is he going to be when he’s at the top of the pile? Colonised space, colonised sensibility, enclosed areas, enclosed sense of self, counter intuitive …
This is not brutalist but futilist. This is the future now, be afraid.