A Blot on the Landscape?

A short walk from the Ironbridge (which featured in my last V&V post) is Ironbridge Power Station.  It is situated in the middle of beautiful countryside and is entirely invisible from the bridge itself, being hidden by the Severn Valley.  The location was chosen because it was situated next to the River Severn and also next to several railway lines.

The original power station was eventually replaced due to increasing demand for electricity after World War II.  The architect of the new power station collaborated with a landscape architect to ensure that the power station merged into its natural surroundings.  It has a single chimney, which is 673ft high and is listed as the fifth tallest chimney in the UK.  To put the height into perspective, the chimney is even taller than the HSBC Tower (Canary Wharf), The BT Tower (Marylebone) and Blackpool Tower.

The cooling towers were constructed of concrete to which a red pigment had been added so that they blended in with the local soil.  The turbine hall itself is clad with granite faced concrete panels, aluminium panels and glazing.  This building hides the metal clad boiler house.

The measures taken to blend the power station into the landscape, got it shortlisted for a Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors/The Times conservation award.

Friends of the Earth claimed in 2006 that the station was the second most polluting power station in the United Kingdom.  Due to changes in rules, the power station is due to be decommissioned by 2015.

Click here for a photograph that I took a few years ago showing the complete power station from a different perspective than shown in the above photo.  The power station and in particular the cooling towers is seen as an important local landmark.  It induces a lot of different reactions and links the industrial revolution of the past to the present day.  I shall let you judge for yourselves whether or not the construction is a blot on the landscape or the architect achieved his aims.

I have to admit I like the contrast of the cooling towers against the greenery, even more so when they are operating and producing steam.

1 thought on “A Blot on the Landscape?

  1. I think the curvy shape of cooling towers is very attractive, and steam rising from them adds to that. The steam really looks like low clouds, and everyone loves the changing shapes and moods of clouds. It amazes me that things, not just this power station, can win awards and be lauded as the biggest/best/most economical/most environmentally friendly/most …… anything that is good. Then along comes some hot-head with nothing better to do who starts rumblings and rumours and eventually convinces enough people that instead of being the best of everything it is really the worst – and it must be destroyed. Destruction itself can cause huge devastation, and the site can never be returned to the state it was before. Only nature can decide what that will be, regardless of what man tries to do.
    If this sounds as if I am on a rant, you could be right. I have seen first hand the trouble that Greenpeace can cause; in this case over a brilliantly beautiful architect designed building, legally built, but affected by a 30-metre boundary change that went unremarked until Greenpeace took it on as a project to create an ever-spiralling chain of events which destroyed local businesses and lives and left a lovely building to crumble and disintegrate and be a memorial to lost jobs, lost financial benefits to the communities and lost employment. Is that what the original Greenpeace people wanted?
    I put Friends of the Earth into the same catagory as Greenpeace. As organisations which started off with good intentions but got taken over by rabble rousers with nothing better to do than make trouble for everyone and get their own projects in the media.
    So I feel sorry for the Council which has to cope with the decommissioning of this Power Station, and all the trouble that will go with it. I feel sorry for people like me who think these power station have some merit, and think the alternatives could be more dangerous. Thanks for the photo of beauty. And thanks for giving me this opportunity to speak (write!) my mind.
    Delete if you find it objectionable.
    August 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSheila Eames

    As an Architect – myself – I think the design is exceptional….that it both compliments and enhances the landscape. And – coming from a more ‘preservationist’ point of view than a ‘destructionist’ – I have to agree…that it’ll be a shame to see these beauties go. One thing – to shut down the power plant…a totally other to tear these down. I hope they find another use for the elegant structures.

    Thanks – as always – for showing me parts of the world I’d never see myself!
    August 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterMarcie

    Your post, Cherry, along with Sheila’s “rant” (which I hope stays!) really raises my awareness about such things that cause so much contoversy these days. It’s always helpful to see both sides of an issue before making a decision that affects so many people. In this case, I love how you have explained the details of this setting. You’re right…we didn’t see it from the bridge when we were there. Someone clearly took this into consideration. BRAVO.
    August 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGinnie

    This is what I love about our sisterhood! So many opportunities to learn!
    August 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGotham Girl aka Robin

    early morning coffee interrupted by a thought-provoking post about green peace, the landscape, power, and where we stand or what we think about, agree on, and so forth….the thrill of going far outside of my own space into this one was a terrific sunday morning trip.

    thank you, cherry, for sharing the site and your insight.
    August 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterhoney

    Thank you, Cherry, for giving us a little insight into pertinent issues not only in your part of the world but issues that are thought-provoking and pertinent globally as well.
    August 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSue

    I have been watching similar movements against power and petro-chemical industries here in the U.S. Having lived in the Houston area before stricter regulations were imposed. I appreciate all the good work that has been done on behalf of our environment.

    However. There is no question that ideology overrides common sense in far too many cases. This appears to be one. I have lived in a third world country, and I have lived without electricity. I’ve been in places where the generator runs four hours a day, but only if fuel has managed to make it up the road.
    I would dearly love to send as many environmental romanticists as I could gather up to an undeveloped or underdeveloped country of their choice and leave them there for a year. Then, we’ll start this discussion again.
    August 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

    One sunny but very cold winter morning while driving along Inerstate 40 in Arizona we came upon a power station like this one, and the steam was coming from those cooling towers. The view was breath taking. It made us leave the highway and go closer, only to find a stream next to it, covered in the mist, and frozen plants next to it. It was a photographer’s paradise (hm, I might write about that on my blog sometime – thanks for the inspiration). So – what to think?

    I wouldn’t call myself an environmentalist, but I am concerned about the environment and love my planet earth. So I do what I can within my means to live more environmentally friendly – which means biking or walking whenever I can, line dry my laundry whenever possible, conserve water, driving a fuel efficient car, use my own shopping bags instead of plastic bags etc. There is a lot one can do.

    Destroying this plant somehow leads to nowhere. I would love to see it turn into a museum about industrialization AND the impact it can have on the environment. Highlight the architecture. There are alternatives to destroying – that, in the end, are far more environementally friendly.

    I really love and appreciate that in this forum we can have “rants” and can leave our honest opinion. Wonderful.
    August 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarola

    This reminds me of a golf course we have near Rotterdam. It is alongside a river and on the other side of the river you see a very large industrial site/plant. I remember us tourists that loved the golf course, because the views were so different from all the other golf courses they had ever seen.
    Just like I really like this picture and this view.
    August 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPetra

    I have to say I love the shape and colour of those towers and you captured so well how integrated they look in this landscape Cherry 🙂
    August 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnyes – Far Away in the Sunshine

    Thank you all for your comments I have really enjoyed reading all the different points of view on this. I hope that when it is finally decommissioned that it isn’t left to rot and turn into a ruin. I think a good use of it then would be to turn it into some sort of museum to add to the other heritage museums in the area.
    August 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCherryPie

    well the after picture (assume the flickr one was the before) is definitely much better, and i think the lack of smoke pouring out does make it all look far more harmonious. not sure i’d really like having to look at it all the time, but i agree with your above…about turning it into something – a bit like battersea power station which is such an important landmark.
    August 22, 2012 | Registered CommenterEliza

    I sure feel like I’ve had my head in the sand about nuclear power.Can’t quite say those towers improve the landscape; but all of your thoughtful posts have set my mind to thinking.

    Thank you for sharing this!
    August 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary Sherman

    They are an interesting contrast to the green country side. The thing that hit me as not so pretty is the darn electric lines. I hate those darn things when I’m trying to take a photo and they are in the way. Maybe I’m just not trying hard enough to incorporate them into something interesting.
    August 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaery Rose

    What an interesting post… it really does seem to fit in with the landscape, but as we progress and learn new things about power and pollution, I suppose change is inevitable. Here, there has been much controversy about wind mills (turbines)… I happen to love them, but many people feel that they detract from the scenery. I suppose it is a compromise that must be made if we humans want to continue to expand in population.
    August 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkelly

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