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United Kingdom Power Networks Formally Hands Over Switch House to Tate Modern
Tate Modern Building © Tate Photography.

LONDON.- UK Power Networks formally handed over the western switch house behind Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall to Tate. The handover of the western switch house marks a key point in the delivery of the Tate Modern building project. Tate will now begin demolition of this switch house, before creating the opening from the main Tate Modern building to the new building, creating the crucial new link from the City and the Millennium Bridge directly to south London.

Tate marked this historic handover of the switch house from Basil Scarsella, CEO of UK Power Networks to Alex Beard, Deputy Director, Tate with a short ceremony on Friday 25 February. They were joined by Debbie Jackson, Director of Capital Projects and Design, London Development Agency and Councillor Peter John, Leader, Southwark Council.

Alex Beard, Deputy Director, Tate said: “The handover of the substation is a crucial step in the Tate Modern Project and takes us to the next stage of building work. The handover is the culmination of a five year partnership and could not have been achieved without UK Power Network's commitment and determination and the vital financial support of the London Development Agency. Being close to the community has always been important to Tate Modern. This next stage is one that will lead to a new North/South route from the Millennium Bridge through the existing Tate Modern to Southwark. This new route will help to connect Tate Modern and the neighbouring area to the South Bank and the City, providing the catalyst for further regeneration.”

Basil Scarsella, Chief Executive Officer, UK Power Networks said: “Our customers rely on our electricity infrastructure to go about their daily lives and our investment in this site will help ensure the continued reliability of electricity supplies for a large area of London. This upgrade has halved our substation footprint, allowing the expansion and enhancement of Tate Modern in the large area which has been vacated. We are proud that an innovative waste heat recovery system in our new substation will eventually be turning heat from our electricity transformers into hot water and heat for the gallery. It will demonstrate energy efficiency on a grand scale.”

The switch house, to the south of the Turbine Hall, has housed an electricity substation serving the City and South London since the 1940s. Although the power station was decommissioned in the 1980s the substation continued to supply electricity to the City. Following UK Power Networks’ modernisation of the station’s equipment, power has been switched off and machinery cleared from the western switch house, allowing Tate Modern to expand into the site. The London Development Agency paved the way for the expansion by providing £7 million to fund the changes to the substation in 2006. Electricity will continue to be supplied to the City from this site from the eastern substation which now contains the modernised equipment.

Tate Modern’s new building will draw a large proportion of its energy needs from heat emitted by UK Power Network’s new transformers within the remaining substation. With a high thermal mass, natural ventilation where possible, and employing the stack effect of its vertical form, the new building will use 54% less energy and generate 44% less carbon than current building regulations demand. Tate Modern’s new building will be a model of environmental sustainability, setting new benchmarks for museums and galleries in the UK.

Overall the project will also address some of the strains on the current building. The gallery was originally designed for 2 million visitors. With current visitor numbers reaching up to 5 million, there is serious overcrowding particularly at weekends. Changes in contemporary art practice mean that different kinds of spaces are desirable and additional space is needed so works can be brought out of storage and shown on a more permanent basis. Since 2000, there have been more than 2 million participants in Tate Modern's learning programmes and existing spaces cannot satisfy demand. The new building will provide over 5000sqm of new gallery space and over 1300sqm of new space for learning programmes.

Building work on the Tate Modern Project commenced in January 2010.

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