Charging up the power station

Design Week thinks Parkview’s vision for Battersea Power Station is hotting up, as Alan Yau unveils plans for a futuristic entertainment den

Alan Yau, the luminary restaurant owner behind Hakkasan and Yauatcha, last week revealed his most ambitious scheme yet: a vast, organic structure offering Japanese food, entertainment and private rooms for hire (DW 23 June 2005).

The venue’s futuristic environment has been rendered by celebrated architect and design consultancy Future Systems, the group behind such bold, dramatic structures as Lord’s Cricket Ground media centre and the Selfridges store in Birmingham’s Bullring.

The location selected by Yau for the club will only add to the concept’s luxurious otherworldliness: subject to planning permission, it will sit inside a renovated former turbine hall in Battersea Power Station, on the south bank of the River Thames in London. The venue is part of a redevelopment masterplan for the station and its surrounding area by Parkview International, the UK arm of Hong Kong Parkview Group.

Yau’s Hakkasan company will oversee the Battersea project, but Yau is keen to stress that it remains at the feasibility stage. ‘Future Systems is currently completing a preliminary feasibility study for a site within the triple height volume of one of its former turbine halls,’ he says.

The Future Systems blueprint extends across some 2300m2 at ground level and its dining areas, bar and private boudoirs would tally 5800m2 of floor space. Approximately 50 private dining pods will be suspended in the softly curving architecture, each overlooking the ground floor below.

‘The brief from Alan [Yau] is like a cross between a restaurant, club and brothel,’ says Future Systems partner Amanda Levete. ‘The space in the station is vast, with extraordinarily long, narrow proportions. Alan wanted to make sense of that volume, so we saw it as a kind of canyon crossed with bridges.’

The space between the rooms, which will act as informal meeting places, is as important as the rooms themselves, according to Levete. The rock-like form of the architecture, while conceived ‘instinctively’, is governed by the number and size of the rooms and the dimensions of the canyon and its meeting points, she says.

Future Systems’ interiors will offer an informal, living-room environment with banquette seating. Isometrix, the lighting consultancy for Yau’s earlier restaurants, is now developing a design to function within this space. ‘This structure is architecturally stunning and our role is really to highlight that in the most exciting way,’ says Isometrix founder Arnold Chan. ‘But we must also ensure that the ambience is right in each pod so that people can relax. It is a fine line to strike this balance.’

A Japanese ‘onsen’ spa bath is proposed for the club’s roof level, where Yau hopes customers might bathe and dine looking out over ‘stunning views of the London skyline’.

Funding for the Hakkasan project comes largely from the Hwang family-owned Parkview International. President Victor Hwang’s selection of consultancies for the Battersea development has placed an emphasis on innovative design and architecture. ‘Design is definitely leading everything we do here,’ says Parkview director of corporate communications Ian Rumgay, citing agreements with ‘groundbreaking’ tenants such as Yau.

Also in the mix is Ron Arad Associates’ futuristic Upperworld Hotel (DW 2 September 2004). Positioned on the roof of the station, Arad’s grand proposal features 44 spiral-shaped suites, two restaurants, function rooms and shuttles running the length of the building to carry guests to their rooms.

‘The project went into slowdown – a think process – but it is waking up again,’ says Arad, as the designs are reviewed. This period follows what Arad calls ‘a big reorganisation rethink’ of the whole Battersea scheme. ‘We are waiting for an updated brief from Parkview and bracing ourselves for lots of changes. We will make sure the changes are for the better. [This process] is in the nature of these projects,’ he adds.

Parkview is now signing up retailers, leisure operators and businesses, ahead of a second round of planning applications that will present a holistic blueprint for the site. Prospective occupants are presenting to Parkview and planning applications will now be submitted on an individual basis. Rumgay says that planning submissions – including those for Upperworld, an Arup Engineering pedestrian bridge and ‘project Yau’ – will not take place until next year, by which time construction will have started on the masterplan. ‘We are hoping that with a good wind behind us we can begin building by November,’ he says.

However, a question mark remains over whether the political will exists to forge ahead with Arup Engineering’s pedestrian bridge, since it would require investment from both Wandsworth and Westminster Councils, plus the full co-operation of the river authorities.

Former FutureBrand director Paddy Sutton has overseen the Power Station’s naming (Battersea has been dropped) and continues to work on the branding internally at Parkview. However, Rumgay does not rule out future brand tie-ups with tenants or partner organisations. It could all be up for grabs.

The Battersea Power Station revival

• Listed main building restored

• Glass Upperworld Hotel in the roof (planning)

• Alan Yau’s Future Systems-designed restaurant and entertainment venue proposed

• 750 apartments

• Retail, office and leisure space

The Surrounding Area

• 2000-5000-seat theatre ‘in the round’

• A diagonal pedestrian bridge linked to Pimlico (planning)

• A 670-room adjoining conference hotel with a 3000-seat banqueting hall

• A 460-bed ‘city resort hotel’ with roof gardens and walkway to the river

• Train station development, roads and landscaping

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