Tate Modern's Solution to a 20-Storey Tower on Its Doorstep? Build a 6ft-High Concrete Wall

By Millard, Rosie | New Statesman (1996), February 2, 2004 | Go to article overview

Tate Modern's Solution to a 20-Storey Tower on Its Doorstep? Build a 6ft-High Concrete Wall


Millard, Rosie, New Statesman (1996)


It's a sad day for Bankside. Well, it is if you are one of the 180 residents who have just lost their case against the planning permission granted for a 20-storey residential tower on Tate Modern's doorstep. It's not even a very happy day for the developer, London Town, which has waited more than three years to get going. Imagine a row of huge leylandii trees, only with better landscaping, and you'll get the essence of this bitter dispute.

As I wrote in this column last year, when Tate Modern was proposed on Bankside, it was hoped that one of the benefits would be the promotion of other, equally exciting buildings in what was then a benighted part of London. Indeed, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (Cabe) stated that "part of the case for putting public money into the creation of Tate Modern was that it would stimulate regeneration ... in the surrounding area". But when the developer London Town, having paid more than 7m [pounds sterling] for a disused site 150 feet from Tate Modern, proposed a contemporary tower block with 28 apartments, everything became most unpleasant.

The local residents, many of whom live in the tall, sexy Bankside Lofts development opposite Tate Modern, were egged on by the gallery's director, Nicholas Serota, who said the plan would be a "blight" on his baby. London Town, a small company, proved equally determined. It agreed to modify the height and adjust the positioning of the tower so that it would cast a slender, fast-moving shadow across Tate Modern's front door. The design, which included affordable housing, was agreed to be a good one and planning permission was duly granted, only to be put on ice when the residents' association challenged the ruling. …

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