The new extension of the Tate Modern has recently opened and I popped along on what I hoped would be a quiet day. It wasn’t – as there were hundreds of school kids around and about. The new extension, Switch House, is adjacent to the Boiler House (as the older part of the museum is known). The new extension is ten stories tall, and there are two banks of elevators to get you up it – except one set only goes up four stories. This is a bit of a problem as most people are trying to get up to the top. As a result, the lifts are crowded.
But you can’t complain about the views up there. This is probably the best free skyline view in London. You’re out in the open – so no grubby hand prints on glass to deal with if you want a photo. It’s not ridiculously high up, but it’s high enough and affords good views across St Paul’s Cathedral, the City of London and out towards Canary Wharf.
There’s not such a good view looking west towards Westminster, but it’s still a nice place to see the city from.
Most entertainingly you can see directly in to the two residential tower blocks that sit alongside the Tate Modern. And when I say you can look in, it’s more voyeuristic than James Stewart in Rear Window. I can only imagine that the property values will be falling because either you put up blinds (removing the reason for buying that property in the first place), or you have to put up with thousands of people staring right into your apartment. I couldn’t help noticing that all the sitting areas closest to Switch House, look like they’re straight out of a magazine cover shoot. They don’t look lived in.
Inside the new extension, you have to go down quite a few floor before you reach any new space actually being used as an exhibition area. The halls are light and airy, although the staircase is narrow. The building opens up lower down, and you end up in the tanks at the bottom which are cavernous areas that amazing things can be done in.
Well worth visiting, although I fear the viewing gallery might need some kind of queuing system in the height of the summer or school holidays!