Herzog & de Meuron’s Tate Modern Expansion Looks Straight Out of Star Wars

by Michael Anthony Farley on May 25, 2016 Newswire


It’s been nearly a decade since the New Museum moved into its glorious stack of galleries from architecture firm SANAA. Since then, art museums have been in somewhat of an arms race of expansion projects featuring irregular pyramidal forms. Last year the new Highline-hugging Whitney location opened, a bizarre industrial ziggurat from Renzo Piano. This month, SFMOMA more than doubled its exhibition space with a similarly chunky, wedding-caked mega-building from Snøhetta. Not to be outdone, MoMA is expanding yet again, this time into the tallest, pointiest pyramid of them all. That building, from Jean Nouvel, just broke ground and will be over 1,000 feet tall when complete (most of that space will be luxury residences above the museum’s galleries).

But our friends across the pond have just completed what might be the most tasteful bottom-heavy mountain of contemporary art since the New Museum started the trend. The Tate Modern released these images of their new pyramid by architectural photographer Iwan Baan today [h/t Dezeen] and it looks just great.


The 10 story addition, named Switch House, expands the Tate Modern by 60% and aims to improve circulation at the perennially-crowded museum. The structure was designed by starchitects Herzog & de Meuron, who oversaw the original conversion of the Tate Modern’s home—a former power plant—way back in 2000. The firm clad the new tower in a perforated mashrabiya of brick that matches the old industrial building. This filters natural light, gives the new structure a sturdy, monumental look by day, and allows it to glow at night. The combination of form and materials is elegant, timeless, and futuristic all at once.

Unfortunately, our only glimpses of the interior seem to be of circulation areas and public spaces. As much as I enjoy imagining cozying-up in that curved concrete nook in the staircase, it would be nice to see the actual gallery spaces. We can only guess how art will look in this building (at Herzog & de Meuron’s Perez Art Museum in Miami, I can never shake the feeling that the architecture overshadows the exhibitions). But one thing’s for sure: it would make a fantastic rebel moon base. And ironically, it’s a much more loveable iteration of Star-Wars-pyramid-museum-architecture than those daft lumpy mounds George Lucas has been trying to build that no one wants.


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