There was strong public demand for increased space, improved access and better facilities at Tate Britain. The visitor experience was diminished by a complicated layout and by inadequate spaces. School visitors had an over-complicated route to negotiate and learning spaces were far from the art.
The south-east quadrant has been reconstructed to the highest standards. The galleries have been made watertight, as well as given much improved illumination (using natural daylight as often as possible), load-bearings and architectural finish. Updated environmental controls will now allow us to show early paintings, fragile sculptures, drawings, photographs and film in this suite. The Archive Gallery will be our first purpose-built display space for items from the archive, the largest part of our collection.
Tate Britain’s learning programmes have exceeded expectations and the gallery was unable to meet the growing demand from school groups, young adults, community organisations and families. While education spaces were overcrowded, isolated from the main galleries and lacking in basic facilities, learning is now integrated into the body of the gallery, occupying dry and wet spaces on the principal level, a new digital media studio near the Manton Foyer, and a dedicated entrance for schools on the same level as the archive and library, adjacent to the new spiral staircase at the centre of the Rotunda.
Over the past ten years, the number of Tate Members has increased from 24,000 to 104,000. There was an urgent need to upgrade and enlarge the former Members Room. By transforming the Rotunda space, originally built to show works on paper but later home to the library, we have been able to afford our members a space more appropriate to their needs. Adjacent to the Rotunda, the newly unified Grand Saloon, previously divided into three meeting rooms, is be a splendid multi-purpose space for all kinds of activity. As such, these two parts of the original gallery – the circular upper balcony of the Rotunda and the Grand Saloon – have finally been returned to public use.