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The architecture

Tate Modern is a remarkable combination of old and new. Bankside Power station was built in two phases between 1947 and 1963. It was designed by the architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who also designed Battersea Power Station and Waterloo Bridge. Constructed of a brick shell supported by an interior steel structure, its striking monumental design with its single central chimney, had often led it to be referred to as an industrial cathedral.

In July 1994 an international competition was launched to select an architect to redesign the power station. By November, the initial 148 entrants had been whittled down to a shortlist of six. These were: David Chipperfield Architects; Office for Metropolitan Architecture/Rem Koolhaas; Renzo Piano Building Workshop; Tadao Ando Architect and Associates; Herzog & de Meuron and Jose Rafael Moneo Arquitecto. You can see all of the proposals presented by the short-listed architects in the Showcase.

In January 1995, the firm Herzog & de Meuron were announced as winners of the competition. The dignified simplicity of their proposal impressed the jury. Their respect for the original architecture, with subtle alterations rather than grand gestures, and the introduction of more light via the enormous roof light box, combined to create an interior both functional and modern.
Competition brief for Tate Modern
Competition brief for Tate Modern

© Richard Glover
Rem Koolhaas/Office for Metropolitan Architecture proposal for Tate Modern
Listen to Jacques Herzog talking about the challenges of converting the power station into a gallery.

Tate Audio is sponsored by Bloomberg and produced in collaboration with Acoustiguide

Rem Koolhaas/Office for Metropolitan Architecture proposal for Tate Modern
© Office for Metropolitan Architecture and Gluckman Mayner Architects

Did you know?
Gilbert Scott's original design for Bankside Power Station
  • The height of the chimney of the power station is 99 metres (325ft), and was intentionally built shorter than the Dome of St Paul's Cathedral which stands at 114 metres (375 ft).
  • Approximately 4.2 million bricks were used in the building of Bankside power station.
  • The original design for Bankside had two chimneys rather than the single central chimney of the building we see today.
  • Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the architect of Bankside power station, was also the designer of the British red telephone box.

Gilbert Scott's original design for Bankside Power Station
© The Architects' Journal