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Tate Modern

Five things you might not know about Tate Modern

This Bankside icon, which has recently expanded upwards, is one of the world’s most visited art galleries and holds a few unexpected surprises

By Time Out editors

Originally built as a power station, Tate Modern is designed around a series of vast spaces that lend themselves to art exhibitions and sculptural installations perfectly. Sitting across the river from St Paul’s Cathedral and linked by an easy stroll across the Millennium Bridge, the gallery was only opened in 2000 but has quickly become a favourite with Londoners and art lovers from all over the world.

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Five interesting facts about Tate Modern


The building was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, who also designed the classic red telephone box. Take a look at those long, heavy-framed windows and you’ll notice the similarity.


The main galleries stand in what used to be the boiler house, and the new creative and performance space known as The Tanks was once an underground bunker for vast oil reserves. The most recent addition is the ten-storey Switch House, which sits above the tanks and replaces part of the EDF Energy electricity substation that still operated here when Tate Modern opened.



The gallery has played a major part in reviving the now trendy district of Bankside, which is also home to Borough Market and Shakespeare’s Globe. The last time Bankside proved so popular was in Shakespeare’s era, when it was the equivalent to today's West End – busy with theatres and social life, but also notorious as a red light district.


Such is the brutal industrial appearance of the former power station that it’s become a popular filming location for sci-fi adventures, including episodes of ‘Red Dwarf’ and the film ‘Judge Dredd’. More recently, the gallery starred in ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’.



Three-year-olds are welcome to draw on the walls. Sort of. Children aged three and up can use the Bloomberg digital drawing bar in the Boiler House and see their work projected onto the walls. We like.


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