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Bankside Power Station

From Academic Kids

Night view of Bankside Power Station, circa 1965
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Night view of Bankside Power Station, circa 1965

Bankside Power Station is located on the south bank of the Thames in the Bankside district of London. Since 2000 it has been the Tate Modern gallery.

Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the building is brick-clad steel, 200 m long with a substantial central chimney of 99 m. The height was limited to less than that of St Paul's Cathedral on the opposite side of the river.

The station was commissioned following a power shortage in 1947, and Scott's design was completed and accepted within a year despite strong local opposition.

Construction work was in two phases and was not completed 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. The oil-fired station had four generators. Rising oil prices made the station uneconomic resulting in its closure in 1981.

The 134 million conversion to the Tate Modern was designed by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. Redundant plant was removed in 1995, and the conversion was 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. A substation is still on-site.

Scott's other London power station is at Battersea and is widely considered the more iconic design with its four towers. 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.

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