Tate Modern opens the Tate Tanks, designed by Herzog & de Meuron

Tate tanks commission
Herzog & de Meuron have transformed Tate Modern's subterranean former oil tanks into a space for live art, performance, installation and film. Pictured is 'The Tanks Commission' (installation view) by Sung Hwan Kim, 2012
(Image credit: TBC)

The Tate Modern (opens in new tab) extension by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron (opens in new tab) is one of the most hotly anticipated architecture projects in London - the Olympic Park aside. Even though the project probably won't see its full completion until 2016, phase one has just finished, with the striking underground Tate Tanks (opens in new tab) opening to the public this week, dedicated to live art, performance, installation and film.

'Today we are opening the next phase in the evolution of the Tate', director Nicholas Serota announced at the launch. He highlighted the project's 'scale, ambition, dedication and consistency'.

But visitors expecting architectural spectacles and trickery may be disappointed. Instead the three large circular galleries, in what used to be the former power station's oil tanks, are most striking for their concrete nakedness. Herzog & de Meuron have kept the spaces as close to their original identity as possible, creating stark and imposing volumes that will act as a foil to the live artworks on show.

Overall, the large-scale work-in-progress Tate extension - developing right beneath our noses at Wallpaper* HQ - poses a unique challenge to Herzog & de Meuron, who were also responsible for the original Tate Modern building 12 years ago. 'The Tate is a very public forum,' says Jacques Herzog. 'Our role as architects is to make it function as a whole and feel natural, not fragmented'.

Lighting design by Arup Lighting (opens in new tab), as well as an overall design language that references the original power station structure, ensure a seamless transition from the Turbine Hall to the Tanks.

The ambitious 15-week opening programme at the Tate Tanks comprises everything from a specially commissioned new installation by Korean artist Sung Hwan Kim (opens in new tab), to dance and performance pieces by the likes of important choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker (opens in new tab). In these new subterranean spaces, art and architecture will come together in the most engaging and thought-provoking fashion.

Tate tanks installation

(Image credit: TBC)

Tate tanks

'The Tanks Commission' by Sung Hwan Kim, 2012

(Image credit: TBC)

Tate tanks

'The Tanks Commission' by Sung Hwan Kim, 2012

(Image credit: TBC)

Dance - Fase: Four movements to the Music of Steve Reich

Pictured is 'Fase: Four movements to the Music of Steve Reich', by choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, 2012, performed at Tate Modern Photography: Hugo Glendinning

(Image credit: Hugo Glendinning)

The 15-week opening programme for the Tanks includes specially commissioned works and past classics.

Watch a snippet of De Keersmaeker's work and hear her take on performing in the Tanks

Turbine hall outside Tate tanks

Lighting design by Arup Lighting, as well as an overall design language that references the original power station, ensure a seamless transition from the Tanks to the Turbine Hall

(Image credit: TBC)

Entrance to Tate Tanks

The Tate Tanks are the next phase of an amibitious extension project for Tate Modern, also masterminded by Herzog & de Meuron. 'Our role as architects is to make it function as a whole and feel natural, not fragmented,' says Jacques Herzog

(Image credit: TBC)

Light music performance

Also being performed in the Tanks is 'Light Music', by Lis Rhodes, 1975

(Image credit: TBC)

Light music performance

'Light Music', by Lis Rhodes, 1975

(Image credit: TBC)

The Crystal quilt

'The Crystal Quilt', by Suzanne Lacy, 1985-7, at Tate Modern

(Image credit: TBC)

The Crystal quilt closeup view

'The Crystal Quilt', by Suzanne Lacy, 1985-7, at Tate Modern

(Image credit: TBC)

Flip book ballet

'Flip Book' by Boris Charmatz, 1987

(Image credit: TBC)

Dancers in DEM

'DEM', by Eddie Peake, performed at Cell Project Space London, 2012. Photography: Damian Jaques

(Image credit: Damian Jaques)

Flik Flak model

'Flik Flak', by Jeff Keen, 1964

(Image credit: TBC)

Washing Brain and Corn actress

'Washing Brain and Corn', by Sung Hwan Kim, 2012

(Image credit: TBC)

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).