It's taken 39 years, many screwy stabs at regeneration — including a theme park and a Chelsea FC ground — and a serious slab of foreign dollar. But Battersea Power Station has finally (re)opened.
Amid a flurry of ticker tape and an unprompted dig at Donald Trump, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan oversaw the pulling of a lever, heralding a moment which had cost a consortium of Malaysian developers a cool £9 billion to make reality.
Over the past few years, the Battersea site has opened in dribs and drabs, with flashy Frank Gehry apartments, a brewery, a new, tautological tube station et al, but the money shot was always going to be the unboxing of the revamped power station itself — a building that all Londoners know, but almost none have been inside.
So what IS it like inside?
In a word: breathtaking. Giles Gilbert Scott's industrial masterpiece is an architectural symphony in two movements; Turbine Hall A opening in 1933, Turbine Hall B following 20 years later. Only by stepping inside do you feel their immense stature, and appreciate the literal powerhouse this building once was.
Turbine Hall B is roofed over, glowing with various neons and shopfronts — the three-way lovechild of Tate Modern, Westfield and Doha Airport. Turbine Hall A is the airier, more dashing of the two, with grand industrial windows at either end, a vaulted skylight running through the middle, and lashings of gantries from which to drink up the views.
While the mercantile makeover of the turbine halls admittedly dumbs down the aesthetics (imagine if they'd turned this into another Musée d'Orsay instead), you cannot deny the majesty of what is some of the most divine art deco/modernist architecture London has to offer.
Until now, we've had to sate ourselves with the views of those Pink Floyd chimneys/six million satisfyingly-arranged bricks alone — but suddenly you can get the full picture of Gilbert Scott's palatial-industrial vision, not to mention a tantalising glimpse of Control Room A, peering at you through a strip of glass.
It's like unlocking a new level on the game that is London.
While Tate Modern's Turbine Hall is filled with thought-provoking installations, both BPS' throb with high-end commercialism. In one fell swoop, here is possibly the world's most drop-dead gorgeous mall, and also one of the most exorbitant: in a scoff-worthy montage of excess, shopfronts glitter with Cartier, Calvin Klein, Rolex, Hugo Boss.... You can purr out of here in a new Bentley for Chrissake — that wasn't an option at Croydon's Whitgift Centre last time we checked.
There are, though, things to see and do for us hoi polloi. As well as a smattering of less splashy outlets, including a Pret and a Starbucks (because: capitalism), BPS is peppered with old hunks of machinery, labelled up with interesting, if jargony, plaques.
A small display on the regeneration of the power station is genuinely interesting, and includes egregious mock-ups of what the development could have looked like, including some great lunkish tower jutting right out of the middle of the historic power station, which has to've been the work of a bored architect pissing about on a Friday afternoon.
There's also an elongated bookshop, surrounded by deliciously raw hunks of concrete, which will be pretty good once they've stocked it with copies of Londonist Mapped.
And admittedly on opening day, the activities we were most excited about weren't on the table; namely the great glass elevator that shoots up the inside of one of the chimneys (we can now confirm the price of a ticket though: £15.90) and that 1950s-style control room bar where you feel like you're drinking a martini on the set of Thunderbirds. We will be back for those, mark our words.
If nothing else, come to Battersea Power Station for the hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck frisson of finally being inside this skyline icon: many London-curious folk will have explored the inner regions of The Shard, St Paul's, possibly even the BT Tower — but BPS has been so off-limits, even our intrepid Editor-at-Large Matt Brown hadn't stepped foot in until now.
It is a weird and wondrous feeling to be here, and you must cast aside all skepticism to visit this beltingly beautiful behemoth as soon as you get the chance. Even if you're not in the market for a Bentley right this moment.
All images by M@/Will Noble/Londonist