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Bankside B Power Station
Bankside, London, UK
associated engineer
Not known
Ove Arup & Partners
date  1952 - 1963, 1995 - January 2000 (conversion)
UK era  Modern  |  category  Power Generation  |  reference  TQ318805
ICE reference number  HEW 2291
The building we have today that houses Tate Modern on the south bank of the River Thames was designed by Sir Charles Gilbert Scott as the power station Bankside B. It replaced two earlier power-generating stations on the site. Bankside B was the first large power station designed specifically to use oil-fired boilers.
Electricity was first generated on this site on 12th June 1891 by the City of London Electric Lighting Company. From 1934, this power station was part of the UK's National Grid. It's replacement, Bankside A, opened in 1938. Both used coal as a fuel source.
Scott’s Bankside B Power Station replaced Bankside A in turn, and opened in 1952, though it was not completed until 1963. The design was thought sufficiently grand to provide a fitting counterpoint to St Paul’s Cathedral opposite it on the north bank of the river, now linked to this site by the Millennium Bridge.
Bankside B is a brick-clad steel frame structure, 200m long, with recessed brick panelling along the facades. More than 4.2 million bricks were used in its construction. Supporting the brickwork is a 2m thick mass concrete retaining wall. Midway along the waterside facade is a 99m high square brick chimney. Its height was limited so that it would be lower than the dome of St Paul’s.
The power station had three main component spaces — the boiler house at the north end, the huge turbine hall in the middle and the switch house at the south end. The turbine hall and boiler house combined measure 160m long, 54m wide and 34m high.
Bankside B closed as a power station in 1981, as increasing oil prices made cost-effective operation difficult. The switch house remains operational.
The site was acquired in 1994 by the Trustees of London's Tate Gallery, who wanted to use the building to display its collection of post-1900 modern art . The competition to convert the building was won by Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron. Ove Arup & Partners acted as structural engineers.
In 1995, the power station machinery and the original roofs were removed. A new concrete raft foundation, constructed above the original foundations and groundbearing slab, was laid in October 1997. To ensure correct load transfer, the raft was recessed into the original retaining wall at intervals.
The steel trusses in the boiler house were replaced with a new structural steel frame to support the brick façade and the new gallery floors. The columns of the new steel frame are supported by the raft or the retaining wall, depending on the location. The building now has seven levels and central escalators.
The new floors are designed to withstand heavy loads — 12kN per square metre on the lower floor and up to 20kN per square metre on the upper floors. The whole 30,000 sq m of gallery space is air conditioned, with a lighting system designed to avoid the casting of reflections or shadows on the artworks.
In May 1998, construction of the steel frame for the two-storey glass penthouse began. The structure, known as the Lightbeam, sits atop the original building and includes a restaurant. A coloured lighting feature — the Swiss Light — caps the chimney.
During autumn 1998, the turbine hall roof was replaced and fitting out began. The turbine hall is now both the main entrance and the main large-scale installation space.
The conversion was completed in January 2000, at a cost of £134m. Tate Modern was opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II on 12th May 2000. It is the largest modern art gallery in the world.
One original piece of power station machinery remains — the overhead riveted travelling crane constructed in Glasgow by Sir William Arrol & Co is now used to move large-scale exhibits.
Architect : Sir Giles Gilbert Scott
Architect (1994-2000): Herzog & de Meuron
Architect (1994-2000): Sheppard Robson
Construction management (1994-2000): Schal International
Project manager (1994-2000): Stanhope
Swiss Light designer: Michael Craig-Martin
Research: ECPK
reference sources   CEH Lond

Bankside B Power Station