Tales of the Tate Modern

The Tate Modern model is now available!

According to many of our customers and test modelers, building the Tate is a very satisfying process. While the sprawling building has a long and rich history, the model can be completed in a relatively short amount of time. Read on to learn more about the Tate, the story behind the buildings, and gain a little insight into how the model was developed.

When you consider that the building as it stands today is the result of more than 15 years of construction spread out over the building’s nearly 80-year history, it’s somewhat ironic that you can build the model in only a few evenings.

Some have said they built the Tate model in as little as 3 hours.

Tate Tidbits

The Tate Modern Museum opened its doors in 2000, and it houses most British artwork that has been created since 1900.  It's also home to a substantive collection of international modern art.

But as Anglophiles and architecture buffs know, there’s much more to the story.

The museum is named for Henry Tate, a sugar magnate, philanthropist, and patron of the arts. The National Gallery of British Art – before it was named for Tate – was originally located on the site of the Millbank Prison. (We won’t get into it all here, but trust us, there’s much more to the story.) By the late 1980s, it was clear that the National Gallery needed new digs.

Meanwhile, a power station had been situated on the Bankside site since the 1890s, when it was known as the City of London Electric Lighting Co. The existing structure was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott in 1945. From that building, for almost 30 years, the Bankside Power Station produced electricity from oil and became a much-loved and iconic London landmark.

The oil crisis of the 1970s changed things. Producing electricity from oil became increasingly uneconomical, and less popular, too, due to environmental concerns.

In 1981, Bankside stopped generating electricity. The building stood dormant for nearly twenty years, until, in 1992, the power station was selected as the new National Gallery site.

Converting the old power station would be a massive project. A competition to select an architect for the design drew nearly 150 entries. The Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron won the project and started designing in 1994. Six years later, the Tate opened to the public.

More details about the Tate’s history and construction can be found on the museum’s website.

Our Tate Modern Model Includes Museum Expansion

In 2006, Herzog & de Meuron was engaged again, this time to design an extension to accommodate performance and installation art in the area formerly known as the Switch House. The inspired concept made use of the original structure’s underground oil storage tanks, and also added a towering brick structure. The new Switch House opened in 2016, and was renamed the Blavatnik Building in 2017.

From a bar on the top floor of the new structure, visitors can look across the River Thames to see St. Paul’s Cathedral, Canary Wharf, and Webley Stadium. Talk about an experience!

View from Tate-Blavatnik Building

Although you cannot see the tanks in our Tate Modern kit, the 10-story, 65-meter Blavatnik Building is part of the finished model. Order and build yours now!


View from the Tate, across the Thames. Image credit: Colarm59, Wikimedia Commons