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Swiss to extend London cultural shrine

(Keystone)

Plans for a huge glass extension to London's Tate Modern art gallery, to be built by Swiss star architects Herzog & de Meuron, have been unveiled.

The new pyramid-style building, due to be completed in time for the 2012 London Olympics, is intended to house its huge collection and ease visitor congestion at the world's most popular modern art museum.

Swiss superstar architects Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron, who were responsible for the original conversion of the disused power station on the southern bank of the River Thames, have been chosen for the new hyper-modernist asymmetric extension.

"Its design can be interpreted in two ways: as the erosion of a pyramid, and in contrast, as a pyramid in the process of emerging," Herzog told the Guardian newspaper.

The architects said one reason for choosing an asymmetric design was to distinguish the new building from the more straight-lined corporate structures in the area.

"This is an extraordinary building in glass which will dramatically transform the possibilities, not just urbanistically, but also from the point of view of our programme," Nicholas Serota, Tate director, explained at a media conference on Tuesday.

Too successful

Despite the vast size of the current building, Tate Modern has been a victim of its own extraordinary success.

Designed to accommodate 1.8 million visitors a year, the contemporary art gallery now attracts over four million art lovers a year.

The SFr500-million ($400 million) planned extension to its riverside London home should help to ease the situation by increasing space by 60 per cent.

The new 11-storey glass structure will tower over the existing Tate Modern on the south side of the gallery.

The building will house ten new galleries, two performance spaces, new education facilities, a "lab" for film and video art, and six new cafes, bars and restaurants, including a panoramic restaurant on the tenth floor.

Pure

Since their design of the critically acclaimed Tate Modern in 2000, Basel-based Herzog & de Meuron have exploded onto the architectural scene, notching up success after success.

In architectural circles their triumph is often attributed to their skill in revealing unfamiliar or unknown relationships through the combinations of familiar materials.

Over the past three decades Swiss architects, such as Herzog & de Meuron, Mario Botta, Peter Zumthor, Roger Diener and Gigon & Guyer, have gained considerable international acclaim for their reinterpretation of modernist architecture.

Swiss architects' work is characterised by practical minimalist designs, the careful selection of materials, precision, durability and attention to detail.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron are best known for designing the original Tate Modern.

They won the Pritzker Architectural Prize in 2001, which is considered the profession's Nobel Prize.

Their partnership, Herzog & de Meuron, was founded in Basel in 1978. It employs nearly 200 architects who are currently working on 40 projects worldwide.

This year The New York Times Magazine called it one of the most admired architectural firms in the world.

end of infobox

Major Herzog & de Meuron projects

Tate Modern in London (2000)

St Jacob's stadium in Basel (2001-2)

Schaulager (an art storage & exhibition space) in Basel (2003)

Allianz Arena, a new football stadium for Munich (2005)

De Young Museum in San Francisco (2005)

National Stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing

Hamburg Philharmonic (for 2009)

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