Cedric Price: Bathat

Helen Mallinson

Cedric Price (1934–2003), Battersea Power Station, c.1990. Red pen and coloured crayon on sketchbook sheet, 203 × 253 mm. DMC 1092.

Swiftly drawn in soft orange-red crayon, four upright fingers sit astride a flying platform. We instantly recognise the volume and mass of Battersea Power Station; but the weight has vanished with the walls. The uplift is palpable: thin red pen lines inscribe the geometry of the stripped back steels, but they appear to tether rather than support. Lines also appear beneath the indeterminate shag-pile carpet of urban stuff – old building, new development; the squat strokes have squared off ends that calibrate their own skyline of grainy elevations. Hovering, centre page, the severed power station appears beneficent; a city scaled ‘hat’ like the dome of St Paul’s. 

In 2007, as yet another redevelopment scheme for Battersea Power Station bit the dust, Building Design republished two drawings from Price’s 1984 Bathat proposal: a black and white montage showing the view from the street; a diagrammatic overlay comparing the similar size of London’s two cathedrals. The scheme proposal was one of Price’s typically surgical left-field ideas, this time for a competition that addressed the newly listed Grade II status of the power station. The winner was Alton Towers for a historic theme park. Price’s counter-proposal demolished the tonnage of bricks, leaving the iconic chimneys hovering over the city and releasing the ground underneath for development. Today Price’s undated sketch mocks the wall upon wall of photo-realist lifestyle-theme-park renderings actually being built, less as city more as real estate.