Its September and that can only mean one thing..... my birthday! Well, yes.. that and Open House London. In case you don't know Open House is an organisation that in conjunction with many private, public and residential owners/architects/designers/buildings offers the public, for two days free admission to see, wander around and listen to tours about the buildings that are so prevalent in our lives. Sounds good right? And for the most part it is, its a wonderful idea to get people interested in architecture and design but there is a big BUT for all it's wonderful attributes and the amazing task in getting all these wonderful buildings open it falls short quite often in communication and basic organisation and leaves many frustrated and annoyed. I have now tried three times, all three years have been a pain in the back side.
This has been this year:
So Open House offered the public once final chance to see inside the beautiful Battersea Power Station before it gets turned into horrible modern "luxury" apartments, shop and cinema complex that age quickly and that the average Joe Bloggs of this city couldn't and wont be able to afford, i am glad something is being done to this building but just not that, anyway thats another conversation for another day. Open House had advertised that Battersea was going to be open in the media heavily, so they should have known that alot of people would turn up right? Weeeeeeeeell, seemingly not.
Below is a map, the station on the right, the reds dots indicating the queue to get in. I turned up around 10:15m, the end of the queue was at Albert Bridge, at one point Twitter was saying it stretched well over 1 mile long!
The building opened at 11am, by the time i got under Chelsea Bridge 3 hours had passed, the police were called in, and everyone was told they wouldn't be getting in. Oh, i didn't tell you that another queue had decided to form elsewhere and were pushing into the main one! Total chaos. Luckily they let us proceed although had said it would/could be another 2 hrs! It was at this point i nearly gave up but i didn't and eventually i got inside.
SO then, i would love to show you lots of photos of one of the countries most iconic landmarks but i cannot. Once inside you followed a covered tunnel that led to a covered marquee, which then finally led to a patch of earth in the open, maybe total of 600-800 sq ft (see picture below-blue area) with only really the back wall to look at, a portion of the right side Wing and some stairs to exit the building on the left-where if you could fight past all the people looking up with their phones, iPads, cameras, or taking "selfiess" of themselves (not kidding) you could see the opposite wing of the building. To be honest there would be no point in me taking photos because one quick google and you can see thousands of the same thing instagrammed, retweeted, hashtagged and facebooked. I left feeling swindled.
I've seen what the inside of the station looks like thanks to Urban photographers who have balls the size of brass knobs, its sensational, there is an incredible control room (that will probably be dismantled and stuck in a museum), we didn't see any of that, the huge wing, not allowed down.... i am not stupid, the insurance to let that many people in must've been staggering and i am sure due to health and safety alot of it cant have thousands of people wandering around-but however, even if they had opened up the "wing" (picture below) then it would've been a bit less crammed and would've given people more sense of the wonderful space that it truly is..... sadly my love for this building was lost amongst the sea of snappers clambering over themselves to say "i was here"
This is not the first time this has happened with Open House, every year people turn up wait and get told to go away, places haven't opened and the "oh we're sorry we didn't expect so many people" line is tired and boring. Its been going for years you should expect it, we expect it so why don't you???? Battersea Power Station staff said to us "they were over subscribed" and it was a surprise, come on, really? Then why does it happen every year at Lloyds, Bank of England the Gherkin etc etc? These big places should be ballot only, there should've been staff to walk the line to tell people it would be a long (very) long wait, but there wasn't and i wasted most of the day and only got to see one other place thanks to it.
I'm sure the restrictions aren't probably Open House's fault but the organisation and lack of communication is. i appluad its intent, its a very good idea but its now so big it needs looking at.....i personally wont be doing it ever again.
On a final note: i have tried several times to contact the owners/tours to visit the control room as they used to do tours for architects and architectural visits and no one ever got back to me, there seems to be one way to see the true Battersea Power Station that was hidden from us and everyone today and over last few years............ i'll leave you to google that!!