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The Tate Modern Project

Originally planned for 2 million visitors, the Tate Modern receives over 5 million visitors a year.

Originally planned for 2 million visitors, the Tate Modern receives over 5 million visitors a year. Following the success of the first phase of the museum, a new expansion project is underway to provide better services to a larger number of visitors. The innovative design has been created by the Swiss group of architects, Herzog and De Meuron, responsible for the initial project, who aim to reinvent the first building but preserve the original essence of it, so that the building can be appreciated as a whole. The studio has been awarded numerous accolades, such as the Pritzker in 2001 and the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 2007 and its international career has been acclaimed, with projects like the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion (London, 2012) in collaboration with Ai Wei Wei, the Pérez Art Museum (Miami, 2013), the Blavatnik School of Government (Oxford, 2015) and the Parrish Art Museum (New York, 2012).


The concept of the project arose from the idea of reusing the power station on the south side of the building as a connection between the existing museum and the new extension. Tate Modern always envisaged further development of the Bankside Power Station and foresaw the possible use of the unused tanks as an alternative for expanding the museum. The opportunity has now arisen, as the power station’s equipment is being modernised, enabling space to be freed up for new uses by the museum. The old oil tanks will form part of the new structure on which the future building will be constructed, creating the new connection with the Tate’s Turbine Hall. The rough appearance of the tanks is to be preserved, as a design idea and an opportunity to create spaces dedicated to performances and exhibitions that will offer unforgettable sensory experiences to visitors.


The shape of the new extension is defined by the various geometric factors of the exterior spaces of the museum and the original building. It consists of recreating the transition between the rational form of the top floor with a more chaotic version, stemming from the level that connects with the street and the visitors. The pyramid shape and the angles of the ground floor invite the public to enter the building and experience art as a path to ascension and learning. The connections between the different levels are not just simple stairs, but complex spaces that form part of the building’s topography where visitors can sit, read or enjoy an exhibition.

The building will have 11 levels, almost doubling the current space of the museum. The Tate Modern Project will create new rooms of different shapes and sizes compared to the current ones, and will provide large galleries for installations, rooms for seminars and social laboratories. It will also offer a new space for restaurants and bars and a panoramic terrace on level 11 that will provide spectacular views of the city.


The aim is to create continuity between the building and the old power station. Brick has been chosen for the façade, giving it a completely new aspect. The perforated brick framework allows permeability of light to interior spaces during the day and will make the building shine at night. This risky choice is a radically innovative system, as it uses materials that are almost obsolete and contrasts radically with the new buildings surrounding Tate Modern.

Given how ways of exhibiting art have changed over the last few years, the spaces that the new building generates will adapt to these new demands. It will have a large 5.8 metre high room that will provide flexibility for future exhibitions, as well as galleries for smaller, more intimate exhibitions. Other levels will have higher rooms where light will play a leading part in the way that exhibited art is linked to the museum’s geometry. There will also be a space for children, where keys to the creative process will be taught and practical activities scheduled.


Another important aspect of Tate Modern’s expansion is the way in which it will connect with its Bankside surroundings, creating green spaces either side of the building that will offer new, relaxing environments for visitors and people who live in the area. Also, the landscape on the banks of the river Thames will continue to be the stage for large open-air events.

In short, the new project will provide a less congested environment where art can be exhibited and experienced in a radically different way. What’s more, the Tate Modern belongs to the local community and will contribute to the revival of Southwark, expanding connections and becoming a key symbol of the city.

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  • Text Silvia Romero Jarque
  • Photography © Hayes Davidson and Herzog & de Meuron

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