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Herzog & de Meuron's Power Surge
New addition to the Tate Modernns converted power station home unveiled.

New addition to the Tate Modern's converted power station home unveiled.

The 70-meter-tall addition is significantly taller than the existing structure, but will still be 30 meters shorter than the power station's chimneys.

Herzog & de Meuron / Courtesy the Tate Modern

A view looking north west at the new addition to London's Tate Modern shows a south-facing entrance meant to better integrate the neighborhoods south of the Thames, including Southwark and Elephant and Castle with the rest of the city.

On July 25, Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota unveiled the Basel-based firm Herzog & de Meuron's dramatic design for a 247,500 square-foot expansion to the Tate Modern in London. The addition will add 60% more space to the enormously popular Thames-side museum, which has drawn over four million visitors per year since its opening in 2000. Herzog & de Meuron worked with the museum's director Vicente Todoll on both specific programmatic requirements and precise location of the project, which will replace a working energy substation that abuts the Tate Modern on its south side. Because the facility's lease is up for renewal and needs to be upgraded, it will be moved nearby to the east, thus clearing a space for the expansion on the west side. London Mayor Ken Livingstone announced that the city-run London Development Agency would commit the first 7 million to the plan. However, this funding will only cover the costs of relocating the substation; the entire proposal is currently budgeted at 215 million. According to Serota, no other funds, either public or private, have yet been committed.

In form, the new addition is an irregular pyramid that rises from a hexagonal footprint, explained Herzog & de Meuron principal Harry Gugger. That volume is in turn studded with a series of smaller cubes and boxes that express the interior galleries. The exterior is clad in cast-glass, though in certain spaces like screening rooms in which sunlight would be a problem, there is a solid wall behind the translucent facade.

A major goal for the addition is the redirecting of foot traffic to the south of the museum. Presently, the main northern entrance faces the Millenium Bridge and the city on the other bank of the Thames. As Southwark and its neighbors gentrify, local community groups want the Tate Modern to be an anchor for their areas, and not something that responds to the city to the north. We are establishing the south bank as a creative and artistic hub,, said Nicholas Stanton, leader of the Southwark Council. Herzog & de Meuron responded by designing a grand entrance to the south, and an open pedestrian avenue through the Turbine Hall which connects the southern neighborhoods more directly with the Millenium Bridge.

Though the renderings of the new building would suggest otherwise, the architects explained that they weren't looking to create anything too flashy or iconic. I think it's ridiculous that cities are using museums and galleries to compete these days,, principal Jaques Herzog said at the press conference. Much of the new building will be hidden from the view of Londoners to the north, but its upper levels will still peek over the roofline of the original building, perhaps luring museumgoers around to the southern entrance.