Chelsea's interest in moving to the area around Battersea Power Station is no secret, and the club has moved one step closer towards departing Stamford Bridge. The Blues have hired a developer to do some planning work for a possible relocation, and with the power station going into administration and expected to be sold soon for around £500M, they've stepped things up a notch and have now got an architect involved.
Rafael Vinoly will collaborate with London firm Kohn Pedersen Fox to come up with a scheme to fit a 55,000ish seat stadium as well as shops and hotels on the site. According to the Guardian, the proposed new stadium is penciled in immediately south-east of the existing building, which will have to be partially demolished and rebuilt, with the power station repurposed for commercial operations.
At this point, they'll only be in feasibility studies, and it's not entirely clear that the plans could work - Vinoly's desire to save as much as the original structure as possible may prove problematic as it is by most accounts in terrible condition and would be very difficult to refurbish, especially in light of the proposal to change the loading requirements of the power station towards commercial use.
Unreinforced masonry is nowhere near as forgiving as more modern structures and it's almost certain that a structural analysis would require extensive work, perhaps even a secondary gravity system if testing shows that the bricks have degraded to the point that everyone assumes they have. That's not to say it'd be impossible for Vinoly's initial plan to work - anything in engineering is possible with enough money - but most of the point in keeping the existing structure would be the savings as compared to a demolition and new build, and the more work that has to be done to keep the power station standing, the less of a savings you get from keeping it in the first place.
On the plus side, Vinoly's experience with the structure (he worked on a previous, failed redesign) means that he's in good position to be able to come straight into the project with a good feel of what's possible and what isn't, and since planning permission on the last attempt at making use of Battersea Power Station went through last year there's no reason why any of the structural analysis would need to be redone unless the loading scheme becomes more onerous, and a good architect would be avoiding that at all costs at this phase of planning.
If the Guardian's report is accurate, the station is of secondary importance anyway to fans - the stadium wouldn't be incorporated into the existing building at all, meaning that a lot of cool things could be done architecturally (but we lose the prospect of playing inside a really cool brick cathedral. It's impossible to speculate about just what Vinoly would have in mind there, just because there'd be so much to play with, so I won't bother with crazy ideas about what it could look like.
Incidentally, there's very little point in moaning about corporate cookie-cutter design at this point, with everything so up in the air. If you don't like, say, the Emirates or Manchester City's Etihad Stadium, that's fine, but there's no reason that a new Chelsea stadium would follow that sort of path. Vinoly could come up with something incredibly cool, or he could give us a total dud. We simply won't know until we see the initial designs, but I'd have to say I'm pretty confident that any architect worth their salt would be able to do something amazing with a new-build stadium with the sort of backdrop that the power station could provide.
The timeframe on a project like this is typically a couple of years from pre-design until construction actually starts, and construction about as long again, so even if Chelsea managed to secure the site and the Stamford Bridge freehold from the CPO* we'd be looking at a likely opening date at some point in 2016. There are a lot of steps to go through until the club actually moves, however, but this looks like a very likely candidate for our eventual destination.
*Who would probably be completely fine with Chelsea moving to Battersea, assuming the transportation links to the place become improved.