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{02/06/2012}   Derelict industrial buildings v Apartments

For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by Battersea Power Station.  While not London’s most beautiful landmark, it is the one I always make a point of admiring if I am passing it.  For years now I have known that the odds of it being made into apartments was high.  As a student, in days when a flat around there wouldn’t have been priced so far out of my reach as to be cruel, I vowed that if it were ever made into apartments I would have to buy a flat there.  I read with heavy heart the other day that it is in the planning stages of being transformed into luxury flats, having been bought by developers for a staggering amount, almost £375 million.  My buying a flat there is never going to happen, but it’s got me thinking about the concept of industrial buildings being converted into flats.

I like mills, largely because they’re by water, and I have been in a few mill conversions, some more tasteful and quirky than others.  While I would rather all these mills could be restored to their original use, I reluctantly accept our industrial golden age has long gone, although with that have gone horrendous working conditions.  However, seeing these fine buildings left to decay is an architectural tragedy and makes a town or city look redundant and left behind.  This for me is something that upsets me about Sheffield.  It’s a city that I don’t think has addressed the sad reality of its booming industries being rendered redundant.  There are so many derelict areas, despite all the town centre development, and there is a sadness to the vast areas of disused land and mills/works.  As an aside, certain areas bring The Full Monty to life and I absolutely love that film, though that is a film centred around a group of men, most of whom are redundant because of the mills around Sheffield closing down

I have twice lived on Rotherhithe Street in London on the side of the road by The Thames, though sadly in fairly bland modern blocks.  Where old mills remain, they are all flats, many of which have fantastic and quirky features, though small windows and an abundance of interior brick dust are fairly common issues.  When I have my daydreams about how I would spend my lottery jackpot, buying a former industrial building, of the red brick variety, and converting it into a residence would be a project I’d love to oversee.  I wouldn’t make Battersea Power Station into flats though, I have other plans for that!

I find modern developments displeasing on the eye (except uber modern, architect-designed ones, like a lot around the London Bridge area), but industrial conversions are interesting and I am reluctantly accepting that at least a decent conversion saves a piece of our industrial history and stops another bland Barratt block being erected in its place.

Some years ago, having being told by a former resident of New Concordia Wharf that some of the former spice warehouses, now flats and offices, off Mill Street/Shad Thames near Tower Bridge still exuded a smell of spice, I investigated but couldn’t smell spices.  One day, many years later, not there specifically to sniff out spices, I was convinced I could smell spice.  Maybe it was psychological, but I love the idea of living somewhere with built-in spice room freshener!

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