Recently, large museums in New York, Barcelona, Berlin, Lisbon and Madrid have undergone major architectural transformations, and it's no surprise that London is following suit. Last year, plans for the proposed extension of Tate Modern were approved, a £215 million project that will turn the British gallery into a true reflection of the contemporary art it holds within its walls.
Since it opened in May 2000, over 25 million people have visited Tate Modern, making it the third most popular free visitor attraction in London. To truly bring the museum into the 21st century, Herzog and De Meuron – responsible for the original Tate Modern and other major architectural works like the Beijing National Stadium – were chosen for their design of a fragmented glass pyramid tower, or ziggurat, which will stand as the annex to the south-west side of the standing building.
The new extension, which simply explained resembles a large stack of glass blocks, will cater to the large amount of visitors that the Tate Modern receives annually; the museum was originally designed for 1.8 million visitors per year, but it welcomes over 25 million. Called the “Tate 2,” the new tower will be 11 stories tall and will expand the gallery's exhibition space by 60%.
The design, as architect Jacques Herzog puts it, “can be interpreted in two ways: as the erosion of a pyramid and, in contrast, as a pyramid in the process of emerging.” Although this design has come up against some criticism, Tate Modern officials are hoping that the extension will be a new landmark for London. I am reminded of the controversy regarding the glass pyramid built in 1989 at the Louvre in Paris. Despite your personal emotions towards the structure, you can't deny that it has become as much a symbol of the museum as the Louvre's prized possessions held indoors. We will see if the Tate 2 goes the same route. AB