The Nostalgia Trap: Architecture Preservation in London and New York

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In late 1976, Pink Floyd arranged to have a pig-shaped helium balloon the size of a double-decker bus raised above the hulking Battersea Power Station on the Thames in London for a photo shoot. The balloon escaped its tether and the pig floated away, eventually landing in a distant pasture and badly frightening some cows. But the image of pig and brooding power plant was committed to film, and later graced the cover of the group’s album Animals.

So when talk of demolishing the station arose in 2005 (it hadn’t been running since 1983), Pink Floyd fans rushed to the barricades. “You don’t dare to touch my chimneys,” one declared on a fan site. Demolition would be “an act of vandalism,” wrote another. “Every effort should be made to save Battersea.”

The monumental structure, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and built in stages beginning in 1929, is now safe from the wrecking ball. After more than a quarter-century of debate, London’s mayor signed off on a plan late last year that puts the iconic brick structure and its smokestacks at the center of a development of mid-rise apartments, offices, and entertainment venues. The project encompasses almost 40 acres and will cost nearly $9 billion....

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