The Switch House
I have put off visiting the Switch House, Tate Modern's new extension, until now. Actually, I should have put it off longer as the experience was deeply underwhelming for me.
The perfect place to sit and contemplate suicide.
Above the Switch House basement space, looking more like a design by Ken Adam for a Bond movie.
Once again the Tate chose Herzog and de Meuron to design this new building and internal galleries from scratch. It sits on the footprint of the old Bankside power station oil tank space. And that is where Herzog and de Meuron have clearly taken their inspiration for the internal areas of the upper floors of the new building. One needs to understand that the original tanks were housed in a harsh reinforced concrete underground space, with little in the way of the comfort or aesthetic quality.
Just a small sampling of the many depressing stairways.
Architects have fallen in love with concrete all over again and lust after the many disastrous buildings of the 1960's. All of the internal spaces at Switch House are built in raw moulded concrete reminiscent of wartime German bunkers and gun emplacements. Perfect for those uses but not to bring joy and to lift the spirits of the many visitors that pass through this building.
Above mean, claustrophobic stairways all clinically lit with bright white LED tubes, making everyone look like they are going down with the flu.
The grim widows and horrid detailing.
The light through the windows is reduced by 50% by the outer airbrick style arrangement coating the exterior of the building, making the common flow areas really gloomy. I would have thought a prerequisite of a gallery space is to create excitement not to depress it, something that Herzog and de Meuron has effortlessly managed to achieve. And then there were lifts. The slowest and erratic ever. In the end, I opted to climb the 10 floors.
Those bloody lifts.
I was in Venice earlier this year and visited the Punta della Dogana design by Tadao Ando it was an absolutely uplifting and beautiful architectural experience.
He also works extensively with concrete but he handles is with such confidence and elegance plus his detailing down to the smallest item. Something greatly lacking in the Switch House.
Tadao Ando's concrete is beautiful and sparing.
Tadao Ando can really lift the spirits as here at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in Texas
An amusing side issue is the problems caused by the Switch House's 10th-floor external viewing terrace. This looks onto the surrounding London cityscape. But on one side it looks directly into block Neo Bankside, where the luxury flats go for £4.5m a pop.
How the other half live.
But viewing across to these immaculately furnished apartments I was unaware of any sign of life. Apparently many are just London flats for the international jet set. On the street, 12 floors below there were people sleeping in doorways inside cardboard boxes.