Thames Pathway

Journal of a Walk Down the River Thames

by Keith Pauling

The Tate Modern Gallery

At the southern end of the Millennium Bridge sits the Tate Modern Gallery. If you remember further back upstream we looked at Battersea Power Station in a state of dereliction and decay. This, too, is an old power station, coincidentally also originally designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, but there the comparisons must cease.

This building has been magically transformed, and whilst the outside still has most of the original appearance, the inside is a wonder of design and a lesson in how to utilise light and space to stunning effect. It was opened in 2000, and stands as a credit to the imaginative redevelopment of some of our old buildings.

It is easy to take the mickey out of modern art so I shall not attempt to here. What is astonishing is that the Tate Modern is so incredibly popular. Current visitor rates are over five million for each of the last two years, and just looking around this morning there are plenty of people about. It is one of the top three tourist attractions in Britain and the bustling pavements surrounding the gallery give this statistic every support.

So popular is the gallery that an extension is planned at a cost of £215 million. The futuristic design will sit behind the existing building and will be open in time for the 2012 Olympic Games. To my mind the intended structure resembles a couple of giant triangular sandwich packs, but what do I know.

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