Tate Modern’s Evolution Over Time

Critical Overview:

The transformation of the Bankside Power Station into the Tate Modern, a separate gallery for international modern and contemporary art in London, was initiated by the Tate Trustees in December 1992. The selection of the Bankside Power Station as the new gallery site in 1994 was followed by the appointment of Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron the next year to undertake the conversion process. The preservation of the building’s original character in their proposal was a critical factor in the decision-making process. The iconic power station, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and built in two phases between 1947 and 1963, had become redundant since 1981.

The building featured a turbine hall, which was 35 metres high and 152 metres long, and a boiler house alongside it with a central chimney. Apart from a remaining operational London Electricity sub-station, the site had been vacant. The design plans were unveiled in 1996, and work commenced following the grant of £12 million from the English Partnerships regeneration agency. The building’s machinery was removed, and the structure was stripped back to its original steel and brickwork. The turbine hall became the dramatic entrance and display area, while the boiler house was converted into galleries.

Since opening in May 2000, Tate Modern has attracted more than 40 million visitors, generating an estimated £100 million in economic benefits to London annually. The gallery has become one of the UK’s top three tourist attractions. In 2009, Tate embarked on a major project to develop Tate Modern in collaboration with Herzog & de Meuron. The refurbished Tate Modern effectively utilizes the building’s spectacular redundant oil tanks, creating additional gallery space and improved visitor facilities.


The Bankside Power Station’s transformation into the Tate Modern represents a significant example of repurposing an industrial structure to serve as a cultural institution. The decision to preserve the building’s original character in the conversion process proved critical to the project’s success. The Tate Modern has since become a major cultural destination, attracting millions of visitors and generating substantial economic benefits. The refurbishment of the Tate Modern in 2009 provided an opportunity to further develop the building’s potential, increasing gallery space and enhancing the visitor experience. Overall, the Tate Modern represents a significant achievement in the field of adaptive reuse, demonstrating the value of repurposing industrial structures for cultural purposes.