Factory From Pink Floyd's Animals Has a Rockin' Past and a Green Future

Battersea Power Station from Pink Floyd's Animals.

diamond geezer / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There's no band in history with more iconic album covers than Pink Floyd, and there's perhaps no more iconic album cover than that of the band's 1977 album Animals. The photo, with that big inflatable pig soaring between the towers, has become something of a cultural symbol and still conjures notions as surreal as the album it represents. While the acid-soaked 70s and Pink Floyd may be confined to memories from a bygone era, the factory from that album cover still stands. But, just as classic rock albums of yore get to be rediscovered by each new generation, so too might that gloomy old building from one of the rock's most memorable albums get another life.

Battersea Power Station in London against a cloudy blue sky.

MOMENTUM / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

London's Battersea Power Station, the largest brick building in Europe, was built in 1935 to bring electricity to the south bank of the river Thames. Its Art Deco flourishes a stately decorum made it one of the city's favorite modern structures--appearances in pop-culture made it one of the city's most recognizable.

In addition to the Pink Floyd album, the building was featured in The Beatles' film Help!, and on the album artwork for other UK groups like The Who and Morrissey.

After nearly 50 years of service, the Battersea Power Station was closed down in 1983. Since then, it's stripped-out interior has been used as a filming location for many popular films, including Full Metal Jacket, Aliens, Children of Men, and The Dark Knight. In recent years, it has also been used as an exhibition space for artists and performers.

Despite the occasional attention the Battersea Power Station gets in the media, the building currently stands in a state of disrepair. English Heritage describes the condition as "very bad" and has included it on its Buildings at Risk Register. In 2004, the former power station was listed among the world's 100 Most Endangered Sites.

Since it was closed, it has had several different owners who proposed numerous development plans for the structure, including an amusement park, mall, and park--none of which materialized. In 2008, the current owners announced their intention to invest $300 million restoring part of the old station to produce energy from biomass and waste. The developer, Real Estate Opportunities, also plans on building an eco-friendly office building and residential area adjacent to the current site, expected to be completed by 2020. Construction is set to begin in 2011.

From the looks of the photographs brought back by Mark Obstfeld, a British photographer who visited the vacant building, the imagination still reigns supreme at the site of the old power station. It almost seems as though if you were to listen closely enough, you might still hear the humming of the boilers, the shoveling of coal by grizzled laborers, or perhaps, even the faint squeals of pigs on the wing.