Caruso St John’s renovation of Tate Britain centres around a rotunda with a members area encircling the upper level and a spiral staircase leading to galleries below. Photography by Hélène Binet.
Alyn Griffiths | August 27, 2014
The lack of space available for development in central London is encouraging architects and interior designers to repurpose existing buildings or look for innovative ways to adapt unwanted and undervalued sites. The much-anticipated overhaul of Sea Containers House by Tom Dixon’s interior design division, Design Research Studio, has returned the iconic 1970s building on the South Bank to its original intended use as a hotel, featuring an interior inspired by transatlantic travel.
East London architecture studio Caruso St John was lauded for its intelligent refurbishment of a portion of Tate Britain’s historic Millbank site, which opened last year. A rotunda at one of the main public entrances provides improved circulation between the various levels, while a new spiral staircase descends to the restored basement galleries and a vaulted cafe space.
Zaha Hadid Architects recently converted a nineteenth-century gunpowder store into a new exhibition space for the Serpentine Gallery and added an extension covered in a typically curvaceous tensile structure, while Herzog & de Meuron has transformed underground concrete oil tanks into new galleries and performance spaces at Tate Modern.
The popularity of pop-ups highlights the inventive approach London-based creatives are adopting to confront a shortage of affordable sites in the city. Temporary buildings such as Haworth Tompkins’ red shed outside the National Theatre, Carmody Groarke’s transformation of a former filling station into a restaurant near King’s Cross, and a bedroom shaped like a boat on top of Queen Elizabeth Hall by David Kohn Architects have all become part of the urban landscape, and will be missed when they are eventually removed.
Architecture and design collective Assemble made headlines in 2010 with a cinema in a derelict filling station and has recently completed a temporary workshop and performance space for experimental music venue Cafe Oto made using rubble from the site. Frank’s Cafe & Campari bar draws crowds to the rooftop of a disused car park in Peckham every summer, while Duggan Morris’ Floating Cinema continues to cruise the canals of East London.
Signs of a gradual economic recovery and the success of the Soho House group has prompted a renewal of interest in one of London’s most traditional institutions, the private members’ club. Serving up a heady cocktail of comfort, style and exclusivity, but given a modern twist through eclectic interiors and benefits such as members-only exhibitions and concerts, new establishments including The House of St Barnabas and The Library are designed to attract members from the creative industries.