The Circus West development exhibits many contradictions and inconsistencies in the image it is aiming to sell.
Under the rail bridge a series of pop-up shops sell contemporary home furnishings such as cushions, quirky ornaments and candles which you can make yourself by taking part in a workshop. Here the materials used feel reclaimed; the facades clad in timber pieces which have been repainted in geometric patterns. Dense, strong looking columns clad in the same timber are used regularly in the space not structurally to hold the roof, but to support light fittings. A classic red telephone box is placed by the shops, sans telephone. Meanwhile, multicoloured lights make a feature of the stone walls and transition between tones, either side of a rotting, leaking downpipe making the entire surface around it glisten with damp. This space feels like it is trying to reclaim history through the use of materials that have no relevance here in an attempt to create a quirky and fashionable space.
In stark contrast to the painted colours and timber of this space, the landscaping in front of the residential block is grey, hard and cold. The only colours found here are the sky seen in the sharp reflections across the glass façade of the building, and strategically placed plant pots, made to look weathered with the use of Corten steel.
This harsh, clean cut surface of the concourse suffers, however, in places where unexplained puddles appear due to some failure in drainage, and the white concrete sculptural bins begin to grow moss and develop stains. These small elements of ‘dirt’ stand out against the ‘cleanliness’ of the proposed scheme.
This space also contradicts the image that is sold to prospective residents in which a fun, family filled atmosphere brings everyone together with children playing in the water features and couples sat in the sun. The reality is a grey concourse used as a walk through for passers-by, with signage on the water features banning any play. Two planting beds provide the huge area with small token pieces of landscaping in a feeble attempt to bring nature into the site. The grasses and wild flowers in these borders are the only thing to soften the edges of this unnatural manufactured landscape.
The falsities in this development are overlooked by the towering chimneys of Battersea Power Station. Even these show the pretence of this development, as the smoke damaged originals have been replaced with replica chimneys, no longer in use, and repainted to the original colour.
The reflection on the past continues with the design of the grocery shop. Glazed bricks and timber frame windows create a quaint and old fashioned aesthetic reminiscent of old country village shops. This is in complete contrast with the contemporary glass and concrete design of the rest of the development. The pastiche of this ‘general store’ extends to the canvas canopy over the door which is entirely arbitrary thanks to the considerable overhang of the building at first floor level.
The shop claims to sell ‘locally sourced’ produce. On venturing inside, the local section can be found full of branded teas. The fruit and vegetable section sells produce grown in countries such as Spain, Peru and India. I found it frustrating that an area rich in history of market gardening doesn’t provide for a local store in a key new development of the area.
The overall impression I have of the Circus West Village development is that of misleading assurances, and that it is a display, or performance targeted to sell an image to as many as possible. The strange mix of contemporary and pastiche aims to tick boxes amongst a wide range of individuals who are considered potential ‘pioneers’ and buyers of the properties here.
It could be an interesting tech study to explore the fake structures of the area.
Are you creating an archive of the false?
Start producing drawings and models that expose the false.
Could you map Battersea’s definition of ‘local’ through pinning where all the produce comes from.
Explore different formats and think about how these might work for your portfolio. Maps, books, museum/archive catalogues and displays can be used to portray false information as fact.
Can reflections be used to show the truth? These can seem to create portals into other worlds where the reality is exposed.