The inaugural visit of the Group was to the Nine Elms area of south London, a maelstrom of new building activity of varying quality by big name architects. We were fortunate to have CEDu3a member Tony White as our guide as we braved the heat of this extraordinary summer on our journey westwards along the south bank of the Thames from Vauxhall to Battersea Power Station. We crossed the river over the Grade II* listed Vauxhall Bridge, with a fine view of Terry Farrell’s exercise in postmodernism, the M16 headquarters (1994).
At Vauxhall Cross we stopped briefly to admire Arup Associate’s elegant Vauxhall Bus Station (2005) (altready threatened with demolition?), before joining the riverside by Broadway Malyan’s huge St George’s Wharf development, a scheme that has not exactly received universal acclaim, apparently having been declared by the Architects’ Journal as the worst building in the world on two occasions. We crossed Nine Elms Lane passing Studio Weave’s Nine Elms Pavilion, fabricated from copper coated water tank panels, and featuring a raised garden.
Our next stop was the moated American Embassy built in 2017 to a design by architect Kieran Timberlake, with its distinctive high-performance façade of laminated glazing with an outer envelope of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, designed to prevent excessive solar gain and mitigate glare while uniformly distributing daylight throughout the building.
We were now in the heart of the Nine Elms regeneration area where the privileged residents of Embassy Gardens (architect: Lee Polisano of PLP Architects) enjoy access to its roof garden and floating swimming pool – the Sky Pool.
It was time now to return to the river at Tideway Wharf to an extensive residential development by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners overlooking the river and dominating what is left of Tideway Village, three large houseboats moored in a tidal dock.
Our final stop for the day was the Battersea Power Station development, the heart of which is Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s Grade II* listed decommissioned power station. According to Rafael Vinoly Architects, master planners for the project, the scheme “aims to create a mixed-use sustainable development offering commercial and retail functions as well as residential, cultural, and event spaces interspersed with community facilities and a zero-carbon energy plant for the adaptive reuse of the power station itself.” The firm of WilkinsonEyre is responsible for the refurbishment of the power station building. This has included the rebuilding of the iconic chimneys. There was lots to see here for tired legs, but one building commanded our attention, Prospect Place (by Gehry Partners), a seemingly lightweight wavy facade with enclosed balcomies, contrasting strongly with the majestic brickwork of the power station.