The internet is being awfully funny today, with all the joke stuff and tomfoolery, but this proposal by Atelier Zündel Cristea to turn the old Battersea Power Station in South West London into an amusement park is no April Fool’s joke. But is architecture all that amusing to the general public? This week, we’ll be looking at projects that are particularly playful and exuberant, so it make sense to start at an abandoned power station, right?
There have been numerous plans involving the Battersea. Most recently, Rafael Vinoly took a stab at a masterplan for the site, but the scheme ran into financial shenanigans with the money-people (I have no idea how developments of this scale ever happen) and the whole thing collapsed. Now, a group of Malaysian developers have control of the site and plans to build a lot of apartments. But before they do, this Paris-based architecture office would like to interject a little fun.
When I think about the spatial experiences of amusement parks, they are often quite remarkable. The first time I rode Space Mountain, at the age of 23, I think I may have even cried. These optical illusions, I mean spatial illusions, are a lot of fun to experience. And that’s what you pay for when you pay all that money to visit such a park. In this proposal, designed to bring a mix of people to the site, the rails of the track gracefully arc through and around the sturdy chimneys of the former power station. Here, the coaster gives folks as many vantage points as possible of the building instead of acting like a backdrop to some far-fetched story or illusion. Here, it is the architecture of the Battersea that the ride is focused on, but is architecture all that amusing? Maybe not for everybody, but if anything could make architecture exciting to a broader public it would be a roller coaster.