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Tate abandons plans for Bankside observation gallery

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The Tate has abandoned plans to build an observation gallery on the 90m- tall chimney at its new modern art gallery at Bankside.

Director of building services at the £130 million Bankside project, Peter Wilson, said that the observation area, once believed to include a restaurant with a panoramic view of the London skyline to rival that from the nearby Oxo Tower, had been shelved because of cost. He told the aj that the plan to install two lifts in the chimney, which faces the City and St Paul's, had 'not been a core objective'. Another plan was to invite the private sector to run the service, separately from the Tate, but that again looks to have been ruled out.

David Chipperfield, shortlisted in the 1995 competition, had proposed demolishing the chimney, and said that a report by Ove Arup showed that installing lifts was unfeasible. He added that as the only British practice on the shortlist it would have appeared 'parochial' to have retained the 'redundant' chimney, and it was, he believed, important to signify change from one function to another. 'If this were to have been a grand projet then we should have had a little more guts,' he said.

Meanwhile at Bankside, building work, designed by Herzog and de Meuron, is on schedule for a May 2000 finish after its start one year ago. A two- storey 'light beam' being created on top of the gallery will act as a symbol and as a home for catering, entertainment and plant. Inside, large windows will open up views of St Paul's, galleries will be top and side- lit, and a 'covered street' will be created in the 30m-high, 150m-long turbine hall where a long ramp will bring visitors down into the building.

Two million visitors per year are expected to the gallery, which is £20 million short of its £130 million cost. English Partnerships spent £12 million on buying the Gilbert Scott building, removing the machinery and preparing it for conversion in 1996.

Architecture will play a part in the gallery's displays programme but there will not be a dedicated space for the subject.

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