Cathedrals of the Modern Age

By Prodger, Michael | New Statesman (1996), June 17, 2016 | Go to article overview

Cathedrals of the Modern Age


Prodger, Michael, New Statesman (1996)


Stunning new gallery spaces have opened in London and San Francisco. But which is better--the buildings or the art?

From the Renaissance onwards, the building type that architects favoured as the ultimate showcase for their prowess was the church. It worked for Michelangelo and Borromini in 16th- and 17th-century Rome and for Wren and Hawksmoor in London after the Great Fire; churches were the ideal vehicle for both Pugin's Victorian Gothic and Alvar Aalto's 20th-century minimalism. But now, the building that architects most want to design is a modern place of worship--the art museum.

It was (with a nod to the Pompidou Centre) Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, inaugurated in 1997, that changed everything. Here was a building that was a work of art in its own right, which spurred urban growth and transformed the city in which it stood from a provincial backwater to a tourist destination. And this, even though the works on display were less striking than the building itself.

The Guggenheim and museums by other starchitects such as Zaha Hadid, Richard Rogers, Renzo Piano and Norman Foster also did two other things: they helped the public to accept challenging building design and they cemented the interdependence of modern art and modern architecture. The critic Hal Foster has written about the latter phenomenon in The Art-Architecture Complex. The gallery, he says, has become the "primary site of image-making and space-shaping in our cultural economy". And not always in a beneficial way: big buildings mean big capital, and the good and the bad that brings with it.

This year stands as striking proof of the omnipresence of the Art-Architecture Complex. A far-from-exhaustive list shows new galleries or extensions by big-name architects opened or opening in Basel (the Kunstmuseum, designed by Christ 8c Gantenbein), Mexico (the Museo Internacional del Barroco by Toyo Ito), Roskilde (the rock museum by MVRDV and COBE), Beijing (the Spring Art Museum by Praxis d'Architecture), Louisville, Kentucky (the Speed Art Museum by wHY), Rio de Janiero (the Museum of Image and Sound by Diller Scofidio + Renfro), Washington (the National Museum of African American History and Culture by David Adjaye) and London (the late Zaha Hadid's maths gallery at the Science Museum). The biggest of them all is Herzog and de Meuron's extension to Tate Modern, also in London.

At 260m [pounds sterling], this last example is the most expensive arts project in the UK this century and is a direct response to the unforeseen success of the same practice's 134m [pounds sterling] conversion of Giles Gilbert Scott's Bankside power station into Tate Modern in 2000. Designed to accommodate two million visitors a year, it now struggles under the footsteps of five million, making it the most popular modern and contemporary art gallery in the world. The 11 levels of the new extension give the Tate 60 per cent more display space as well as those now vital elements of any new gallery: public spaces, learning facilities, a restaurant, offices and, admittedly less vital, a viewing terrace.

The Tate extension is first and foremost a tremendously exciting structure - something that not every marquee building manages. A flat-topped pyramid with origami folds, the Switch House (named after the part of the power station on which it now sits) is wrapped in a complicated, almost Moorish brick lattice that acts like a veil around the concrete structure within. Outside, it matches the brickwork of Gilbert Scott's original power station, built between 1947 and 1963, and, inside, the perforations break up and filter the light that enters through a series of long slit windows. Different times of day give different effects.

The Switch House can be entered from the south or through the original Tate Modern--the Boiler House, as it is now known. There is also a high-level bridge between the two, giving vertiginous views of the Turbine Hall below. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Cathedrals of the Modern Age
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.