{ feuilleton }


• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


A tabled question


Work-related research this week had me wondering who it was that first thought of turning Battersea Power Station into a table. For the past few days I’ve been looking at a lot of the illustration work that George Hardie produced for the Hipgnosis album covers in the 70s and 80s; I’ll explain why in due course but the quest led me to seek out the songbook for Pink Floyd’s Animals album, two pages of which can be seen in the first Hipgnosis book.

Hipgnosis would often extend their album design into promotional areas, producing related posters, stickers, and so on. Pink Floyd’s popularity meant there was demand for songbooks, and the one for Animals is a treat for the use it makes of additional photos from the flying-pig sessions at Battersea Power Station. The idea of using the power station for the cover came from Roger Waters, incidentally; a shame he didn’t apply the same invention to his lyrics. But I digress…


From the Animals songbook (1977). By George Hardie?

Between the photos (and, er, the songs) there are several pages of graphics by (I’m guessing) Bush Hollyhead and George Hardie; the former depicts a pig, dog and sheep in various stylised arrangements while Hardie provided a vignette of bacon rashers on a Battersea table. This was 1977 so I’m assuming it’s the earliest example of the power-station-as-table, unless, of course, somebody out there knows better.


When the Monster Dies (1990) by Kate Pullinger. Illustration by Willie Ryan.

And sure enough… Thanks to herr doktor bimler for suggesting this one.


Robber Baron Table (2006) by Studio Job.

Artist David Mach took up the table idea in the 1990s to produce a series of collages showing an enormous chimney-legged chair sitting beside the power station. There’s no explanation as to why the table should be upside down but then artists often don’t think things through as well as designers. A better idea is the Battersea-like Robber Baron Table (2006) by Studio Job, part of a series of furniture concepts suitable for oligarchs and those who work in the City of London.


And so to the inevitable, one of a number of stylish tables currently being manufactured by the Battersea Table company.


Not a table but another clever repurposing of Giles Gilbert Scott’s architecture. Atypyk makes concrete ashtrays for those who still smoke, with the chimneys formed from unsmoked cigarettes. Battersea Power Station when it was in use did much to contribute to London’s polluted air so this seems a fitting by-product. Are there any more examples out there?

Previously on { feuilleton }
Design as virus 16: Prisms
Storm Thorgerson, 1944–2013
Hipgnosis turkeys
Peter Christopherson, 1955–2010
Storm Thorgerson: Right But Wrong
Battersea Power Station



Posted in {art}, {collage}, {design}, {music}, {sculpture}.

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7 comments or trackbacks

  1. #1 posted by herr doktor bimler

  2. #2 posted by herr doktor bimler


    Robber Baron Table (2006) by Studio Job.

    I remember that! [waves hand in air] It was part of the “Telling Tales” exhibition at the V&A in 2009.

  3. #3 posted by John


    I wrote something about that very V&A exhibition:


    Thanks for the Pullinger book, that’s a good one. Giving it a glass top is a smart touch. According to booksellers it was published in HB in 1989, the Picador PB a year later.

  4. #4 posted by herr doktor bimler


    Having dragged myself to the bookcase and checked my copy, I am able to tell you that the cover artist was Willie Ryan.

  5. #5 posted by John


    Thanks, I’ve amended the post. Willie Ryan’s work has appeared here before:


  6. #6 posted by herr doktor bimler


    To change the subject slightly… I know that Fritz Kahn’s “Brain-as-bureaucracy” conceit is not really your department (it’s more of Peacay’s interest over at Bibliodyssey). Even so, I thought of you when I encountered this use of the meme by David Pelham.

  7. #7 posted by Gabriel McCann


    Not a visual reference but there is a mention of Battersea Power Station in Frank Turner’s song Fisher King Blues …


    And in Battersea power station, the fisher king
    Ponders on his ruin, among many other things.
    He folds his broken hands,
    Surveys his barren lands,
    And prays for hope to whisper in the wind.






“feed your head”