Further to a blog post I wrote a few months back discussing the impending opening of Tate Modern’s new subterranean performance spaces, I finally managed to make time to go and view the architecture at The Tanks first hand. Whilst the cavernous volumes within were exceptional, and the art on display certainly starting a few conversations, it was the surfaces that captured my imagination.

The treatment of surfaces can articulate many things about the nature of a building, from structural performance to materiality and construction, but ultimately they are the only means by which we experience a three dimensional space. Texture, colour and relief all provide ways of enlivening a series of planes, but what better decoration truly than the accumulated mottle of labour and time? My thoughts returned to the subject of ‘authenticity’, a question that arises in every reuse project, and the authenticity of the tanks is certainly worn proudly, almost militantly, as one enters from Gilbert Scott’s turbine hall (which is positively opulent by comparison).

The following images describe the surfaces that I encountered. Whether you consider them at all beautiful or inspirational I leave entirely up to you.

When we comprehend a space as the void left between surfaces, those surfaces become the pages of the building’s story. The patina we inherit from the site’s former lives is the greatest asset at our disposal in the ‘presentation’ of the space; what we want it to say about the building’s past, and how the building will realise its new future.



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