Tate Modern Museum is located on the Bankside, South edge of the Thames in London, United Kingdom. This building originally was designed by architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and for over twenty years, performed the function of a power station. In 1994, the Bankside Power Station was chosen as the location for international modern and contemporary art in London. 

Realized in 2000, the concept of converting into Tate Modern Museum was created by Swiss architect Herzog & de Meuron as a competition entry. Let’s see how the transition of this industrial building into a museum made it a success and a prominent landmark in London city.

1. Design

The Concept of Transformation

Tate Modern Switch House by Herzog & de Meuron: Model museums of the 21st century - Sheet1
Tate Modern Museum – The Old and New Part ©http://www.designcurial.com/news/switching-place-herzog-de-meurons-tate-modern-extension-4965466/

Tate Modern Museum complex consists of the adaptation of a power station building based on a rectangular plan, situated parallel to the river, and a new extension, a dynamic form located on its south-west. The main idea of transformation was to open up this complex not only for museum visitors but let it function as a public space and allow easy access from all four sides. Starting from the north—the public space between the promenade and the museum—leads to the building and then splits into two parts symmetrically on both sides of the brick tower. Then the platform goes to the monumental concourse. 

Bankside gardens situated on the north are lawns with birch trees that give a human scale for the building and a place to rest. On the west side, the ramp that signifies the main entrance functions as the meeting point. South terraces are covered with greenery-decorated with hedges and trees blooming in different colours, unlike the austere northern gardens.

Spatial and Functional Distribution of Tate Modern Museum

Tate Modern Switch House by Herzog & de Meuron: Model museums of the 21st century - Sheet2
Top View of Tate Modern Museum ©https://en.wikiarquitectura.com/building/tate-modern/#escanear0007-copia
Tate Modern Switch House by Herzog & de Meuron: Model museums of the 21st century - Sheet2
The plan of Tate Modern Museum ©https://en.wikiarquitectura.com/building/tate-modern/#escanear0007-copia
Tate Modern Switch House by Herzog & de Meuron: Model museums of the 21st century - Sheet3
The section of Tate Modern Museum ©https://en.wikiarquitectura.com/building/tate-modern/#escanear0007-copia

The old building consists of three main parts: the Turbine Hall, the brick tower, and a 5-storey exhibition block.

  • Turbine Hall is a covered street situated under the level of Thames, running along the entire length of the building. It contains facilities like a shop and cafeteria which makes it an attraction both for visitors to start the tour and passers-by to spend time. In the hall, there is a platform that connects the north and south sides of the building.
  • The 93-metre tall chimney was intended to be an observation tower and provide amazing panorama views of London. 
  • The exhibition space is located on three floors, each of them 5-metres high. The third one is even higher which can make the user feel overwhelmed but also delighted with the enormity of the space. Despite the monumental nature of the building not all of the rooms are so huge, movable walls used for the exhibition create smaller spaces. 

The new extension of the Tate Modern Museum also designed by Herzog & de Meuron creates a contrast to the old part of the museum complex but they both have colour and monumental unity. To describe the style of this building I will refer to the description on the architect’s web page that says: “We think this is the challenge of the Tate Modern as a hybrid of tradition, Art Deco and super modernism”.

Tate Modern Switch House by Herzog & de Meuron: Model museums of the 21st century - Sheet4
The dynamizm of the extention building ©http://www.designcurial.com/news/switching-place-herzog-de-meurons-tate-modern-extension-4965466/
Tate Modern Switch House by Herzog & de Meuron: Model museums of the 21st century - Sheet5
The interior of the extention building ©http://www.designcurial.com/news/switching-place-herzog-de-meurons-tate-modern-extension-4965466/

2. Materials and Construction

The building of the power station is made of materials typical for industrial facilities: brick and steel. The truncated pyramid also has steel construction and facade finished with perforated brick, but based on the polygon that transforms to the square-shaped roof it is much more dynamic than the block of the power station. 

Much of all materials in Tate Modern Museum are represented by glass that fills the immense vertical bay windows but also the Turbine Hall roof that is made of glass panels. The windows are especially important in a museum building like this because they have to provide an equal amount and specified quality of light due to presented pieces of art. 

In the interior, there are a bit raw but classic and timeless materials like concrete floors, steel and wooden finish elements. Steel construction of a stairway that is similar to a lift and escalator provides a vertical communication of the 7-storey part of the complex, attracting attention. In this interior, it is architectural furniture with its landing that allows one to see the enormity of the building from a different perspective. Material of the external floor is partly covered with gravel in the colour of the building.

Tate Modern Switch House by Herzog & de Meuron: Model museums of the 21st century - Sheet6
The steel stairway of Tate Modern Museum ©Radu Malasincu

3. Sustainability

The fundamental element of sustainable construction in the case of the Tate Modern Museum is that an existing building unused for 20 years has been adapted, expanded and equipped with a new function that brought it a second life. This revitalization proves great respect for historic architecture, but also the economy of the building—the cost of demolition and the cost of new materials were saved by using the existing building. 

Moreover, the pyramid part is a model example of a sustainable approach to the topic of energy consumption by cultural objects. Its environmental efficiency and design solutions provide energy savings of about 40%. The building is equipped with natural air circulation and materials that can retain heat. 

“By exploiting heat emitted from EDFE’s relocated transformers and employing passive design principles wherever practicable the scheme will use 40% less energy, and 35% less carbon than building regulations demand.”

Tate Modern Switch House by Herzog & de Meuron: Model museums of the 21st century - Sheet7
The environment around Tate Modern Museum ©https://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern/new-tate-modern/future

(https://www.tate.org.uk/press/press-releases/transforming-tate-modern-green-scheme-tate-moderns-new-building)

Author

An architect from Poland who was educated also in Finland. Being at the beginning of her career she looks for a balance between architecture and nature. Despite the interest in the history of architecture she search for modern design solutions.

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