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Tate Modern seeks funds for £3.5m chimney-top gallery

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Tate Modern supremo Sir Nicholas Serota is on the look-out for a sponsor to fund an observation gallery he wants to build at the top of the new Bankside building's 99m tall central chimney.

Serota told the aj at last week's press launch of Herzog & de Meuron's £134-million transformation of the Giles Gilbert Scott-designed Bankside Power Station that the scheme is part of the Tate's long-term plans but could come about inside the next five years. He wants to install two elevators in the building's chimney and run the platform independently of the vast main art galleries below.

'We've seen the success of the British Airways London Eye, which should encourage the development of the viewing platform, rather than inhibit it,' said Serota. 'But the advantage of our viewing platform is that it doesn't move and you can walk around.'

The plan was part of the original competition-winning scheme put forward by the Swiss architects five years ago. Tate Modern project architect Harry Gugger said that it was costed then at £3.5 million by Davis Langdon & Everest. Serota said that the opportunity now exists for a sponsor to come in and provide the money. The 135m tall British Airways London Eye, meanwhile, has been a popular South Bank success since its opening in February this year.

More likely in the shorter term, however, will be a development of the Tate Modern's Switch House, which Gugger said could be transformed into a library and education space, as an extension of the gallery or be used as a space for bodies such as the Architecture Foundation. Gugger said he expected there to be an architectural competition for this southern third of the building.

Serota added that last week the Tate Modern secured planning permission for a coloured 'lightbox' or 'hat' to sit on top of the chimney and act as a 'beacon' for the entire development prior to its grand opening on May 12. Jacques Herzog said this will be coloured 'bright red or blue' and be installed by abseilers - 'Swiss style'.

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