Tate Modern Extension, London, Great Britain

River Work

Client: Tate Gallery of Modern Art
Architecture: Herzog & de Meuron
Period: 2007 – 2016
Surface area: 10 000m2

The Tate Modern Gallery’s new landscape works with nature and is about nature. It works with the river and is about the river – its tides, colours and sedimentation. As a whole, this informal landscape unites the varied existing and new elements of the site and is comprised of generous public spaces, a large planted embankment and lawn areas. 

The Oil Tank Wall is a key spatial element of the design and is an above-grade extrusion of the existing beneath-ground oil tanks. The organic appearance and materiality of the wall evokes the natural geology of the Thames River valley, with the exposed aggregate concrete morphing from light to heavy, gradually revealing the matrix of locally sourced flint stones cast within. The Oil Tank Wall encloses two large, circular terraces to the south and east of the building, which are the principal public gathering places directly adjacent to the new gallery entry and café. 

The strong presence of the Oil Tank Wall is countered by soft landscape elements: The mass of the Spine Planting, tree clusters and the soft, undulating expanse of the Southern Lawn. A dense spacing of multi-stem Betula species in the Spine Planting reflects the alluvial character of the landscape and creates a green backdrop to the Southern Lawn. Collectively, the strong topography of these two elements brings increased depth to the narrow site. A mixture of bulbs and perennials are planted beneath the birch trees to create a densely vegetated under-storey. Feature tree species, more typical of urban public spaces, are planted in clusters intermittently around the site, their selection informed by already existing species. In comparison to the Southern Landscape, the Western Landscape’s character is much less influenced by the presence of the new gallery. The Western Goods Handling Zone and bicycle shelter are screened from view by dense hedges, and a gently mounded circular lawn – a temporary intervention - occupies the majority of the western aspect of the site.