Herzog and De Meuron: Tate Modern’s architects on their radical new extension

Herzog and de meuron: tate modern’s architects on their radical new extension
‘The greatest inspiration is the existing world’: Jacques Herzog (left) and Pierre de Meuron / © Richard Saker

Twenty years ago, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron converted London’s Bankside power station into a gallery. Now they are about to unveil the Switch House – and reinvent how we view art all over again

Jacques Herzog, the more talkative half of the pair of boyhood friends who founded the architectural practice Herzog & De Meuron, is worried about the world. “The things based on the five senses that we like so much, all these values – that we treat people well. They are in danger. There is such a threat around.” He is talking firstly about the threat to European urban civilisation from terrorism, followed some paces behind by his perception that “the middle class is disappearing”. He sees the loss of possibilities of common ground, of cultural experiences shared by different people. In which case Tate Modern, the vastly successful museum in Bankside, south London, might be considered a redoubt of this endangered world.

In 1995, to some bafflement among commentators, Herzog and Pierre de Meuron were appointed architects for what is now called Tate Modern. Who were they? Until that time their best-known works had been signal boxes and facilities for the herbal sweet manufacturer Ricola. Why had this Swiss practice been chosen ahead of Britain’s glittering array of hi-tech modernists, who had been frustrated for years by Margaret Thatcher’s lack of interest in public commissions and Prince Charles’s hostility to contemporary architecture?

Tate had already been criticised for its decision to retain and convert grubby old Bankside power station for use as its new gallery of modern art, rather than commission a sparkling new statement of confidence in the future. It looked like architectural conservation gone mad. Feelings were compounded still further by the fact that, of all the entrants in the competition, Herzog and De Meuron proposed to do the least. Their rather modest drawings seemed to show an art gallery that still looked very much like the power station. It was only when Tate Modern opened, in 2000, that the drama and potential of its enlarged Turbine Hall became apparent.

Now they are back, with the opening next month of their extension to Tate Modern, one of an elite band of globally renowned Pritzker-prize-approved practices and of an even smaller subsection of that band who retain the ability to surprise with their work, who seem still able to invent rather than recycle their greatest hits. […]

Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today.
Aline Chahine
Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today. Highlights Aline founded Architecture Lab in 2008 Lead editor of dan | dailyarchnews since 2019 Founded and Creative Director of DesignRaid Licensed architect with creative sales and marketing experience Experience As full-fledged architect, Aline's background involved a great deal of research that lead to the creation of Architecture Lab as an online database of exemplary design. Her experience snowballed into founding two architecture platforms, Architecture Lab and DesignRaid. Education Aline received USEK’s Master of Architecture in 2004 and BA in English from the University of Toronto
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About Architecture Lab Architecture Lab is a MKR.S Media brand, a website devoted to extraordinary design and aesthetics aiming to promote exceptional aesthetic values and sustainable design in all it's shapes and sizes. Learn more about us and our editorial process and feel free to contact us if you would like to see something in particular on the website, our certified experts will get back to you with the most trustworthy advice as soon as possible. Read all articles by Aline | Follow her on LinkedIn

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