Tate Modern

Year:2000

Duration:5 years

Cost:£134m

Country: London, UK

What did this project achieve?

Turn an old power station and its huge interiors into a modern art museum

Tate Modern is the UK's national gallery of modern and contemporary art. It's in the Bankside area of London, near London Bridge on the south side of the river Thames.

The gallery is sited in what was Bankside power station. The building was originally designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott - best known as the designer of the traditional red telephone box.

The power station was constructed in 2 stages between 1947 and 1963. This was to allow the existing plant to keep running while its replacement was built. The building is steel framed and brick clad. Its distinctive chimney, also brick clad, is 99m tall.

The structure was converted into an art gallery following an international competition run in 1994 asking for ideas on developing the building for re-use. It was opened by the Queen in May 2000.

The museum now holds the UK's collection of British art from 1900 as well as modern and contemporary art from around the world. Works include paintings by Picasso, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali and Roy Lichtenstein.

The museum had 5 million visitors in its first year. It's currently the most visited modern art gallery in the world.

Difference the project has made

Tate Modern is one of the world's leading art galleries. It's a major tourist attraction that draws millions of art lovers to the building every year since it opened.

With a much bigger space, it's now possible to show far more of the national modern collection. Before the museum opened only a handful of artworks could be shown at a time.

The museum has brought income to the area and helped boost the local economy.

How the work was done

The conversion from power station to art gallery took 5 years. From the outside the most obvious change is the 2-storey glass extension on one half of the roof.

Much of the structure inside the building remained – including the huge main turbine hall and the northern boiler house. The boiler house is now used as a main exhibition space.

The project team constructed galleries of different size across much of the station's interior. Ranging in height from 5m to 12m, they use both natural and artificial light for illumination. The power plant's original cathedral windows span from floor to ceiling in some galleries.

The space outside the structure was also developed to provide a series of welcoming approaches to the museum for visitors – one from all four directions of the compass.

Later changes saw the power plant's 3 massive oil tanks open as art galleries in 2012.

"​‌

This gallery is unique in the world. For the first time, people will be able to see most of the Tate's 20th century art collection. Before only a fragment of it could be displayed.

Lars Nittve

Tate Modern director, speaking at the opening of the museum in 2000.

Fascinating facts

The Tate Modern is one of a network of 4 museums around the UK. The others are the original Tate Britain in London, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives in Cornwall.

Tate Modern and the other Tate museums are named after 19th century sugar merchant Henry Tate. The businessman donated his collection of contemporary paintings to the nation, along with £80,000. Tate also introduced sugar cubes to the UK.

The Tate Modern conversion was designed by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. The duo is famous for building the Beijing national stadium, also known as the 'Bird's Nest.'

People who made it happen

  • Conversion architects: Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron
  • Structural engineer: Ove Arup Partners
  • Construction management: Schal International Management

More about this project

Explore more civil engineering projects

I want to become a civil engineer.

See how your studies lead to a civil engineering career

The job you end up with in civil engineering is likely to link back to what you studied at school, college or university. Here you can see your options at any age.

At school

Up to 16 years

School / college

16-19 years

College / university

18 years +

Change career

Any age