Battersea Power Station is a decommissioned coal-fired power station located on the south bank of the River Thames in Battersea, an inner-city district of Southwest London. It comprises two individual power stations which were built in two stages in the form of a single building. Battersea A Power Station was built in the 1930s, and Battersea B Power Station, to its east, was built in the 1950s. The two stations were built with an identical design, providing the well-known four chimney layout. The station ceased generating electricity in 1983, but over the past 50 years it has become one of the best known landmarks in London and is Grade II* listed. The station owes much of its celebrity to numerous cultural appearances, which include a shot in The Beatles’ 1965 movie Help! and the cover art of Pink Floyd’s 1977 album Animals.
Since the station’s closure, the site has remained largely unused, with numerous failed redevelopment plans from successive site owners. In July 2012, the power station was sold to a consortium led by Malaysia’s SP Setia for £400 million.
The station is the largest brick building in Europe and is notable for its original, lavish Art Deco interior fittings and decor. However, the building’s condition has been described as “very bad” by English Heritage.
If you’ve seen the new James Bond film Skyfall, then you were probably impressed by Javier Bardem’s portrayal of the villain, Raoul Silva. He’s a bad dude, and his evil island lair seems a fitting place for him — a rotting heap of buildings sitting out in the middle of the ocean, populated with derelict buildings. It’s so creepy that you think it can’t be real.
But, here’s the thing. The island is real. The island is known as Hashima, or alternatively as Gunkanjima (“Battleship”) Island, and it sits about nine miles off the Japanese coast in the East China Sea. In the late 1880s, coal was found on the sea floor beneath the island. In the early days, Japan’s Mitsubishi company, which was mining the coal, would ferry miners from Nagasaki to the work site. Then, the company decided it would be easier to just build houses for the workers and their families on Hashima itself. Giant, multi-story concrete apartment blocks went up. Schools, bath houses, temples, restaurants, markets, and even a graveyard were built, all on a space the size of a football field.
Once they reached 5,000 people or more out there, it was recognized as the most densely populated place on earth, ever. However, in 1974 the coal ran out and the Mistubishi Company told the people that they would have some work for them on the mainland, provided on a first come, first served basis. That’s why people left so quickly. They left coffee cups on the tables and bicycles leaning against the walls.
A few years ago, actor Daniel Craig, who plays Bond, “discovered” the island and suggested it as a location for his next 007 movie. Skyfall only features external shots of Hashima. The scenes on the island were actually shot in a studio. That’s because Japanese officials don’t allow anyone to set foot on the island itself. Lately, interest in Hashima as a grisly tourist site has grown. A boardwalk has been built around half of the island, but that’s about as close as you can get.
During the mid-1980s, North Korea wanted to change its image by building something massive, something that would be world-renowned. The project would symbolize progress for North Korea and introduce new, Western investors. The decision was made to build a hotel that was taller than any in the world, and in 1987 construction on the Ryugyong Hotel began. It was intended to be completed in 1989, in time for the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students, but developers would face nearly every conceivable hurdle, and by 1992 the project was abandoned.
In an effort to attract Western dollars, North Koreans drew up plans for a 105 floor hotel – the largest in the world – and promised a complete laissez-faire attitude in terms of oversight of the construction and planned hotel activities. Casinos, nightclubs, and fancy restaurants were encouraged. When the project was planned, the estimated cost to build the “largest hotel in the world” would be around $230 million.
Construction began in 1987, but by 1992 numerous delays and problems had driven the cost up to over $750 million, or 2% of North Korea’s entire GDP. The building finally reached its full architectural height by 1992, but a broke government and a lack of foreign investors meant the project would be abandoned before completion. Had the hotel been finished as originally planned, it would have stood as the tallest hotel and the seventh tallest building in the world.
In fact, the unfinished Ryugyong was not surpassed in height by another hotel until 2009.
To those unaware of its history, the Centro Financiero Confinanzas looks like any other unfinished skyscraper. It is the eighth tallest building in Latin America at 45 stories, and is located in the financial district of Venezuela’s capital, Caracas. Its glass façade glimmers in the sun, a projection of wealth and economic prowess that was intended to house national and international businesses. Inside, however, hides a rather different reality. That’s because, while the “Torre David,” named after its main investor David Brillembourg, may look like the newest high rise addition to the Caracas skyline, it is actually home to over 700 families, a “vertical slum” that is a truly fascinating example of reappropriation of space in an urban environment.
Construction started on the tower in 1990, yet the death of Brillembourg in 1993, as well as the Venezuelan banking crisis one year later, meant that construction ground to a halt. It lay unoccupied and unfinished, an ironic symbol of financial failure that was intended to represent the unstoppable march of Venezuela’s petro-fueled booming economy. To this day it is a shell, a skeletal construction whose bare structural bones became, in October of 2007, a remarkable opportunity for an intrepid group of squatters, families whose economic and social situation led them to seek a new life. The views were incredible but deadly, with a god-like view of a city that had failed to accommodate its newest inhabitants.