Skip to content

Tate Modern

London, United Kingdom




5 years




United Kingdom
Project achievements

Economy boosted

Millions of visitors are drawn to Tate Modern and spend their money locally.

Solved the problem

What to do with a redundant power station right on the banks of Thames. Previous

Used engineering skill

Turn the huge empty spaces of the former power station into art galleries.

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.

Tate Modern

In the last 15 years art has changed meaning that the way art is now displayed needs to be adapted. With that in mind, the Tate Modern extension has been designed with a greater variety of spaces.

Video courtesy of Ramboll

Did you know …

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.'

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.

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