Bankside Power Station

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Bankside Power Station
File:Bankside Power Station.jpg
Bankside Power Station, about 1985, before conversion to the Tate Modern
Bankside Power Station is located in Greater London
Bankside Power Station
Location of the Bankside Power Station in Greater London
Country England, United Kingdom
Location Greater London
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Status Decommissioned
Commission date 1952
Decommission date 1981
Operator(s) British Electricity Authority (1952–54), Central Electricity Authority (1954–57), CEGB (1957–81)
Thermal power station
Primary fuel Oil-fired

Bankside Power Station is a former oil-fired power station, located on the south bank of the River Thames, in the Bankside district of London. It generated electricity from 1952 to 1981. Since 2000 the station's building has been used to house the Tate Modern art museum.


There had been a coal-fired power station on the site since 1891.[1] It was extended several times, but eventually was considered old and polluting.

The new power station was commissioned following a power shortage in 1947. The building was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the designer of Liverpool Cathedral, many of the K-series Red telephone boxes, and an important consultant credited with designing the Art-deco exterior of the more well-known Battersea power station. Bankside is a 200 m (660 ft) long, steel framed, brick clad building with a substantial central chimney which stands at 99 m (325 ft). The chimney's height was limited to less than that of St Paul's Cathedral, which stands directly opposite inward from the north bank of the Thames. Despite strong local opposition, Scott's design was completed and accepted within a year.

Construction work was conducted in two phases, and was not entirely complete until 1963. The western portion of the building was completed first and started generating power in 1952. The final structure roughly divided the building into three - the huge main turbine hall in the centre, with the smaller boiler room to one side and the switching room to the other. Rising oil prices made the station uneconomic, resulting in its closure in 1981.

Tate Modern

Main article Tate Modern

For many years Bankside Power station was at great risk of being demolished by developers. Many people campaigned for the building to be saved and put forward suggestions for possible new uses. An application to list the building was refused.

By the spring of 1993 the building seemed doomed; contractors had already knocked a large hole in the side of the building and had started removing much of the redundant plant. The BBC television programme 'One Foot in the Past' focused on the impending threat to the building. The reporter, Gavin Stamp, made an impassioned plea for the building to be saved.[2]

In April 1994 the Tate Gallery announced that Bankside would be the home for the new Tate Modern. In July of the same year, an international competition was launched to select an architect for the new gallery. Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron of Herzog & de Meuron were announced as the winning architects in January 1995. The £134 million conversion to the Tate Modern started in June 1995 with the removal of the remaining redundant plant. This challenging conversion work was carried by Carillion[3] and completed in January 2000. The most obvious external change is the blocky two-story glass extension on one half of the roof. Much of the internal structure remains, including the cavernous main turbine hall, which retains the overhead travelling crane. An electrical substation, taking up the southern third of the building, remained on-site and owned by the French power company EDF Energy. In 2006, EDF announced that they would be releasing half this holding to the museum, and the structure is being replaced by a tower extension to the museum, to be completed in 2015. It is being built over the old oil storage tanks, now converted to a performance art space.

Scott's other London power station is at Battersea and is widely considered a more iconic design, with its four towers - despite the fact his consultancy brief for Battersea was much more limited than his role as chief architect at Bankside. Battersea Power Station was proposed for the Tate Modern but, due to financial constraints and less dilapidation, the smaller Bankside building was chosen.


Many episodes of British television, particularly science fiction series that have required industrial backdrops, such as Red Dwarf, were filmed at the station. The station also served as Tower of London in the 1995 film version of Richard III. In its modern incarnation as the Tate Modern, the building's exterior is featured at the beginning of the premiere episode of Ashes to Ashes.

See also


  1. "The rise, fall and transformation of Bankside power station, 1890-2010". Retrieved 6 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Profile of Nick Serota". Retrieved 27 September 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Tate Modern builders Carillion win £400m Battersea Power Station contract". Your local Guardian. 23 May 2013. Retrieved 27 September 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links