This project proposes a Tate Merchandise production and storage center for the Tate Gallery in the Greenbridge Retail Park of Swindon. The Tate, more than most museum institutions, has spent a considerable investment on their branding and advertisement strategies. This project aims to offer a critique on the commercialization of art and museumification of their gift shops.
The Tate Gallery receives the least amount of funding (38%) from the Government Grant-in-Aid program when compared to other major London based institutions such as the Royal Armories (82.5%), the V&A (60%), the National Gallery (78%), the British Museum (56.5%), and the National Portrait Gallery (43%). The shortcomings of government aid have resulted in a restructuring of the Tate towards a commodity driven business model. Tate Enterprises is a subsidiary of the Tate Gallery and oversees the publishing, shops, and catering divisions. While the division doesn’t generate the majority of the revenue for the Tate Gallery, the products generated develop brand recognition and repeat visits. Tate Swindon operates as an integral part of Tate Enterprises as it houses the production and storage of the gift shop. Additionally, the program of Tate Swindon integrates a public component of shopping to allow the consumption of Tate products to occur simultaneously with the production. The items produced at Tate Swindon range from large scale mass print reproductions to custom replications commissioned by artists. The diverse range from high culture to mass pop culture art is reflected in the reproductions on every scale.
The formal strategy for Tate Swindon samples the four Tate Galleries and combines them as an extrusion atop a generic big box. The ambition to sample the existing forms was driven by the Tate’s strategy of repeat logo and brand recognition. Instead of repeating the Tate Logo, Tate Swindon repeats the building forms and rearranges them to become a town of shopping above the production. The extrusion in one direction addressed an Urban to create flat “billboard” facades from the main street while the articulated facade addresses the public entry. The car enters the retail park and Tate Swindon on the corner, allowing both facades to be read in contrast to one another. Co-opting the imagery of the Tate Galleries into a single facade reduces the glorified image of the museum to a decorated storage shed.
This gallery contains 13 photos.
This project proposes a new prototype for the British Library that combines storage for a particular collection with public access and state of the art viewing facilities. Located in Swindon, the Sound & Media Archive provides storage for the British Library’s collection of over 4 million audio, video, and printed music media, ranging from popular and classical music to wildlife sounds and rare performance recordings. This facility acts as a potential prototype for a series of regional outposts of the British Library that would specialize in oft-neglected subsets of its vast collection.
The Sound & Media Archive includes performance spaces of all scales, from individual listening booths and practice rooms to a fully equipped theatre, dance club, and informal performance hall that double as community assets in addition to facilitating unprecedented public access to this diverse collection. Formally, the project is expressed as a big box shed of dense storage which is carved away by individualized performance voids. Each void possesses its own unique character, allowing for a range of listening/viewing experiences. A central aisle binds the interior together, creating a processional route weaving through the storage stacks, organized by media type. Multiple entrances along an exterior public promenade create a vibrant public space that accentuates existing pedestrian routes across the site, connecting downtown Swindon and the train station with the Gorse Hill commercial district.
Materially, the standardized metal aesthetic of the warehouse is contrasted by a rich textural brick that defines the façade and void spaces. On the outside, the brick forms a lettered screen derived from the existing British Library gate in London. This screen creates a recognizable identity from afar while modulating light at views at the pedestrian scale. In the interplay between repetitive storage and highly specific viewing spaces, between clip-on “IKEA” shed and warm human-scaled brick, the project explores the oscillation between the generic and the specific, the intimate and the monumental, oppositions inherent to the uniquely contemporary intersection of large-scale storage with the preservation of cultural heritage.
Christos C. Bolos
This project approaches the idea of a publicly-accessible repository by hybridizing the big-box storage warehouse with the British country house typology. First, this branch of the Tate uses Swindon’s advantageous location, centrally located between the four existing Tate galleries. The Tate Swindon would absorb the entirety of the existing Tate Store’s contents and provide ample room for an ever-expanding collection, becoming the central distribution center for the Tate. Second, in re-instituting the “dining room” as the center of social life and the primary venue for viewing art, the Tate Swindon democratizes the country house by allowing individuals and groups to hold events in the new facility with the ability to curate the art which surrounds them while they dine.
To further make the Tate Swindon an integral part of the Tate’s operations, a cue was taken from the Tate Store’s current function of serving as a staging venue for new acquisitions to the Collection or for upcoming exhibits. Currently, a mock-gallery must be constructed and subsequently torn down every three months to “test” the various artworks under museum conditions. The Tate Swindon improves on this model, making it more accurate and experientially rich, by directly reconstructing various rooms from the existing four Tates, providing an array of backdrops upon which the Collection can be rehearsed. Although these rooms are infused with new programs such as overnight rooms and study areas for scholars, they are exact replicas of their original counterparts, thereby allowing staff to test artworks against the conditions of any Tate prior to transporting a piece.
These rooms are arranged in a manner both emblematic of traditional country house planning and respectful of their newly-infused programmatic functions. The country house portion of the scheme is oriented toward the currently-picturesque, and in the future possibly suburban, southern side of the site, while the storage shed fronts the A419 highway to facilitate the distribution operations of the facility. The two parts, country house and warehouse, then come together to provide users access to the vast storage space from the more intimate gallery areas. This provides increased public access to the often-unseen extents of the Tate Collection, allowing users to sift through painting storage racks and gain a unique experience which contrasts the domestic and curated with the industrial and impromptu.
Swindon gets two mentions in Hal Foster’s new book The Art-Architecture Complex:
Team 4’s Reliance Controls Factory – “a breakthrough structure in Swindon (in southwest England), which the architectural writer Kenneth Powell describes as ‘neither a factory nor an office building nor a research station but a combination of all three.’ The first of many ‘flexible sheds’ that Rogers has designed over the years, the Reliance Controls Factory owed much to the elegant simplicity of the Case Study Houses in Southern California, especially the famous Eames House of 1949. Yet Rogers was also open to the new Pop and high-tech ideas of the 1960s.” (20-21)
Norman Foster’s Renault Center – “That ‘Foster’ is able to design efficient structures that are also media-friendly is proven: Renault uses its center in Swindon (1980-1982) in the southwest, with its yellow exoskeleton of piers, cables, and canopies, as the backdrop for its UK advertisements (36) […] In such ‘Foster’ designs, both history and nature appear abstracted, even sublimated, and the same might be said of industry. In the background of these projects one often senses the early jewel of industrial structures, the Crystal Palace by Joseph Paxton for the Great Exhibition in London in 1851.”(47)