Tate Modern

South bank of the River Thames at Bankside
London, United Kingdom

Contributed by Project for Public Spaces

One of the most aggravating public spaces in London, it controls and limits the visitor.

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Why It Doesn't Work

Just redeveloped and opened in 2000, this is one of the most aggravating public spaces we have ever been in. You feel so manipulated by a series of birch allees that lead to nowhere. It seems like you might be entering a giant maze... but no, it was just a line drawn on a paper and then put onto a plan and built. Clearly no more thought was given to this space than this minimal, simplistic idea. (If it represents some metaphor, then this space is even worse in our minds.) The fact that people might use it could not have been remotely considered. It truly has the worst and most poorly located benches ever produced by man. In fact on a Friday night, June 6, 2003 at 10 PM, the only creature using the space was a giant rat at least 14 inches long including the tail. It was not a work of art. Maybe that is why we didn't even see any homeless people.

Because we stay nearby, we have gone through the space at least 20 times, so we were prepared for little or no use, but a rat was unexpected.

A space that offers so few options, that controls you and limits you in every attempt that you might want to make, we know instantly that people who try to use it in the way they want are going to be irritated and will not stay long, and probably will not return. In addition, the fact that it is an art museum of "renown," you would think that there could be a garden with sculpture, amenities, and flowers…something that might lift one intellectually or spiritually.

In contrast, when you compare this public space with the Hirshhorn's and the National Gallery’s sculpture gardens in Washington, or the Modern Art Museum’s garden in New York, you realize how far off the mark the Tate Modern is. What a loser.

Inside the situation is similar, especially in the main hall where world-class contemporary sculpture is laid out with no consideration of human use or comfort. This could be a wonderful setting with more features like that of a garden atrium or plaza, such as cafes and seating that are provided in the American Wing at New York's Metropolitan Museum. The space is acting more as a storehouse for art, not the public space that it could and should be.

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Main information: 44 20 7887 8000
Recorded information: 44 20 7887 8008

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