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Bjarke Ingels could turn Battersea Power Station's chimneys into sparking Tesla coils

Architect Bjarke Ingels has unveiled plans to turn the chimneys at Battersea Power Station in London into giant sparking Tesla coils, powered by pedestrians passing through a public square beside the historic building.

Ingels explained the idea in a lecture at the Royal Academy in London last night, where he delivered the annual architecture lecture.

"We're working with experts in Tesla coils, looking into how to incorporate it into the chimneys so essentially we might celebrate the transformation from carbon footprint to human footprint," said Ingels, showing images and a movie of an electric arc passing between two of the 1933 power station's 100-metre-high chimneys.

Power generated by pedestrians walking through BIG's Malaysia Square could be unleashed as giant sparks between the power station towers
BIG's Malaysia Square at Battersea Power Station

"We imagine it like Big Ben, when the clock strikes the hour, we can have this celebration of human energy and human life," he said.

Ingels' architecture studio BIG has been commissioned to design a public piazza beside the decommissioned Art Deco structure, which is at the centre of a huge redevelopment project.

Called Malaysia Square, BIG's piazza could feature a piezoelectric pavement that stores energy as people walk over it. The pavement could generate up to a kilowatt of energy, Ingels said.

A piezoelectric pavement in the piazza could generate up to a kilowatt of energy
A piezoelectric pavement in the piazza could generate up to a kilowatt of energy

"It could be interesting to create a public artwork that ties into the heritage of the power plant," Ingels said. "We don't have coal any more but we do have 50,000 people passing by every day."

"Just looking into the available technology of piezoelectric pavements, we just did the simple math. With 50,000 people walking over it every day we would actually be able to generate quite a large amount of energy."


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This energy could be released as an electric arc that passes between the chimneys, which would serve as giant Tesla coils.

"We could release [the energy] using Tesla coils, not at the scale of Tesla coils that we know but at the scale of the chimneys," Ingels said.

"We're working with experts in Tesla coils, looking into how to incorporate it into the chimneys so essentially we might celebrate the transformation from carbon footprint to human footprint."

Ingels added that the idea had not yet been approved. "I have to say that we haven't fully persuaded the client to do it but we have a rock-solid feasibility study," he said.

BIG's Amager Bakke power plant will blow smoke rings
BIG's Amager Bakke power plant will blow smoke rings

Dezeen was media partner for Ingels' sell-out lecture, which saw the Danish architect discuss projects including the Two World Trade Center skyscraper in New York and the Amager Bakke waste-to-power plant in Copenhagen that will feature a ski slope on its roof and a chimney that blows smoke rings.

Two World Trade Center by BIG
Two World Trade Center by BIG

The lecture was introduced by designer Thomas Heatherwick, with whom Ingels is collaborating on the design of the new Google campus in Mountain View, California.

BIG's subterranean piazza at Battersea Power Station will sit between the refurbished Giles Gilbert Scott monument and new developments by Frank Gehry and Foster + Partners.

Images of the Tesla coils concept have not been released by SP Setia, the Malaysian consortium that is developing the power station site.