Officially opened on 17th June 2016 the new Tate Modern extension later named the Blavatnik building is an iconic world-class addition to London’s skyline. Enabling new ways to display Tate's collection, the new building has been instrumental to Tate Modern's recent success, as it topped the polls as the UK's most visited attraction in 2018.
The ground breaking Tate Modern extension pushes the boundaries of modern design and engineering. From its one-of-a-kind geometric structure to its striking brick façade, every facet of this building has been planned and engineered with staggering accuracy.
Tate Modern is the world’s most visited museum of modern art and is now also the UK's most visited attraction (2018). The extension has enabled an increased display space of 60%, which was hugely welcomed, as visitor numbers since its opening in 2000 exceeded all expectations, averaging five million annually and since the Blavatnik building opened visitors numbers have grown to 5.9 million.
Appointed by the Trustees of Tate, Ramboll’s role in the Tate Modern extension began in 2008. Our work included structural, geotechnical, civil, and façade engineering and environmental consultancy.
The Tate Modern extension has been built on top of its three awe-inspiring disused oil tanks. Positioned in a clover leaf shape, each one spans approximately 30m and are located 9m below ground. Two of the three oil tanks create new unique gallery spaces for large-scale artists’ installations, performances and film. Additionally the re-building of part of the existing Switch House and relocation of its switchgear has also freed up three 18m span floors of gallery space.
Rising above the oil tanks is the new building’s complex form, with an irregular ground plan largely dictated by the constraints of the site. Rising in a truncated twisting pyramid, the building has sharp corners and inward creases, breaking the façade into interesting geometries — in response to the rectilinear monumentality of the power station.
Tying the buildings together visually are the external materials, where the brickwork forms a sloping perforated screen encasing the building, punctuated by a series of windows. The two buildings connect at levels 00 and 01, and at 04, via a new link bridge. At the double-height top floor, glazed curtain-walling is set back from the façade to form a roof terrace with 360o, views of the River Thames, St Pauls Cathedral and London’s skyline.
Ramboll has collaborated and coordinated with the client, design and construction teams in the delivery of Tate's vision and Herzog & de Meuron's architectural interpretation for Tate Modern's extension, a truly multi-disciplinary collective effort.
Watch the video of members of the project team talk about the journey, the vision and the extraordinary challenges that were overcome to create the new iconic Tate Modern.
From the ground up
Early works involved geoenvironmental ground investigations. With its rich industrial heritage, our team carefully assessed the soil conditions, ground water and gas regimes to create a baseline methodology for the groundwork going forward, which subsequently resulted in recommendations of mitigation by design and construction. This minimised the amount of remedial works that had to be undertaken.
Tying the two buildings together
With the Switch House sharing its foundations with the existing Turbine Hall and the new building’s tower oversailing the Switch House, settlement was a key consideration for the Ramboll ground engineering team, especially with the Turbine Hall glass roof. Movement posed a critical issue and was a key driver in the development of the new building’s foundation design.
This unique building has one-of-a-kind geometry and a remarkable brick façade. Every facet of the building’s design has had to be planned and coordinated with the most staggering precision. Its unique and complex geometry impacted many aspects of the building, including the brick arrangement, windows and precast façade panels, internal structure, scaffold.
A concrete frame emerges from the concrete underworld
The concrete frame to the tower emerges out of the concrete underworld in the form of a faceted pyramid. Deep transfer beams facilitate a change in geometry and provide a base for the tower structure to ascend. Carefully coordinated with the remaining basement structure of the oil stores, it establishes a relationship with the raw character of the existing industrial heritage. Ramboll's passion for design is seen throughout this building, with countless numbers of concrete options explored for the exposed areas, to be sure of the best end result. The final concrete solution specified was 40% GGBS; a grade which not only ensures a light and smooth finish with sharp edges, but also has lower CO2, resulting in a lower carbon footprint concrete.
A structural design that embraces the building’s multifaceted needs
The continuous precast perimeter columns crank to form the ‘creases’ in the envelope of the building. Containing a core of structural steel at critical locations to provide slenderness, the precast perimeter columns are cruciform in profile, with ‘arms’ to support the precast cladding panels, glazing and brickwork. The small number of strategically positioned internal columns maximise internal spans, and emphasize the internal spaces. A new steel frame and new steel columns adjacent to the existing Turbine Hall provide 18m clear spans to the galleries and walls and floors were designed carefully to coordinate with the services design, leaving nothing exposed.
A unique brick façade
Truly an architectural wonder, the building’s unique perforated brick façade envelopes the structural frame acting as a rain screen. The corners and creases are column free, emphasising the continuity of the surface, whilst providing “open views” to the exterior. In total 336,000 bricks in 212 different types were installed between August 2014 and February 2016, using a new system that could be installed in ‘all-weather’.
Glazing for views and light
Looking out from within the Tate Modern extension, it is difficult to comprehend the level of complexity in designing the windows. With five different inclinations, the building’s creases and corners resulted in 60 different glass heights across its nearly 1,700 glass panes spanning up to 29 rows of windows and glazed screens scattered over the whole envelope.
Linking the buildings
Connecting the Boiler House to the Switch House is the Turbine Hall link bridge, installed at a high level, 26m above the Turbine Hall floor and amid the existing roof trusses. The 25m long bridge connects the Boiler House galleries of the original Tate Modern Building to the new Switch House galleries and forms part of the overall circulation strategy and visitor experience of Tate Modern.
Navigating the galleries
Far more than just a means of getting to different floors, four individually unique boulevard stairs are wide and deep, creating a place where people can circulate and connect, enhancing their overall experience.
Drainage and flood management
A drainage and flood management strategy was designed to minimise the risk of flooding and impact to the existing downstream sewer system.
New public realm
As part of the overall regeneration of the South Bank area, the public realm space has been maximised to create increased trade for local businesses, and roads around the Tate Modern extension have been adapted.