263 THE TANKS

263
The Tate Modern Project
The Tanks
London, UK
Competition 2005, project 2005-2012, realization 2010-2012

When we first visited the Tanks in 1994 on a tour of the former power station we were so impressed and excited by this dark and rugged world, that since then we have always seen the Tanks as the one area in the Tate Modern that we would keep as original as possible. The Tate Modern expansion has allowed us to revisit the Tanks and from the beginning Tate’s and our objective for this new project has been to fuse the extension with the power station’s past and history, so that like the original conversion, it would always refer back to the building as it once was, which was rough and industrial. The clover-shaped dramatic subterranean Tanks are now at the heart of the expansion plans and they are the point of departure for the new building. When we converted the power station into the Tate Modern we dug out the Turbine Hall in order to turn the vast physical dimensions of the existing structure into a tangible reality. This time, the Tanks form the foundation of the building as the new volume develops and rises out of the structure below. They are not merely the physical foundation of the new building, but also the starting point of intellectual and curatorial approaches that have changed to meet the needs of a contemporary museum at the beginning of the 21st century. These curatorial approaches require a range of gallery spaces, both larger and smaller, along with spaces of less conventional shape, scale and materialisation. The Tanks are underground spaces sculpted from raw concrete with a strong sense of roughness and immediacy and in direct opposition and therefore a perfect addition to the existing galleries.

The visitor will enter the “as found” spaces directly off the Turbine Hall through a wide slot in the existing southern wall which reveals further layers of the old power station and provides direct access to the new ticketing and information area. A newly cut opening into the following 3,2 meters thick retaining wall forms the entry into a transition gallery from which the Transformer Galleries, the East Tank and South Tank are accessed. Our intervention in these found spaces is as subtle as possible. A meticulous mapping process of the existing concrete walls and ceilings revealed damages and conditions where careful patching was needed. The original patina with all its stains, marks and discolouration was preserved and the new concrete blends subtly into the overall patchwork. A row of new and inclined concrete columns penetrate the space and introduce a moment of structural force of what will be built above over the next years. To provide access to the found spaces we cut new openings into the raw walls and left the edges exposed as an evidence of our intentional manipulation. In the East Tank the existing cast iron columns are kept and filled with concrete to provide additional structural strength. The South Tank will primarily be used for performing arts and large installations. To allow for this and to introduce a greater degree of flexibility we replaced the original column grid with four new concrete columns. All installations and lighting grids are exposed and detached from the ceiling to form an independent grid of infrastructure inserted into the existing spaces.

The Tanks and Transformers galleries are the opposite of the white box gallery, spaces where you are aware that you are underground, rich with texture and history, and uncompromisingly direct and raw, providing the viewer, artist and curator with new and different contexts and experiences completing the variety of spaces for art in the Tate Modern Project.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2012
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