I was taken on a tour this morning of the site where the new extension to the Tate Modern is to be built. Planning has now been granted for a pretty spectacular new building designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron on the south side of the existing gallery.
It’s designed to expand the exhibition space (the Tate gets somewhere around 5m visitors a year but was designed to handle half that number) and "enable Tate to enrich its programme by exploring new areas of contemporary visual culture". But it will also house facilities for education, learning and vistor engagement, as well as a few cafes, shops and bars and will act as a catalyst for the continued regeneration of the Southbank.
The thing I like about the way in which they’re approaching this is
that they are making a real effort to connect with the local area and community in multiple
ways. A giant open tunnel or ‘street’ will allow visitors to pass from
the South side of the building (the side which is away from the river
and faces the back of where I work) right through the turbine hall, out
and straight onto the wobbly bridge which takes you over the river to
St Pauls and the city.
The build is obviously a massive project. Before they even start they have to move a huge switching station which is still operational (I had no idea) to the other end of the building. The best bit of the tour came as we descended underground where there is currently a huge concrete lined space which will be left in its current raw state but will become a giant entrance and concourse to the building. Off there (also currently underground) are several giant oil tanks that once housed the fuel for the power station but will now be turned into exhibition space and an events area. The tanks had a distinctly eerie feel to them (but great acoustics).
They are aiming to have completed this build in good time for the 2012 Olympics. I think it’s going to be pretty spectacular.