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Tate Harmer wins go-ahead for Brunel tunnel revamp

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Tate Harmer is set to transform the shaft at the entrance to Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Thames Tunnel Rotherhithe into a performance space

The London-based practice, which changed its name from Jerry Tate Architects earlier this year, has won planning to convert the entrance to the grade II*-listed east London tunnel into an underground events venue.

The scheme features a freestanding cantilevered staircase which will lead down to the revamped space.

Described as a ‘ship-in-a-bottle’ design, construction is limited to a new public entrance with the staircase standing independently of the historical building fabric.

Jerry Tate Brunel

The project will allow access to the ‘sinking’ shaft for the first time since it closed to the public 150 years ago. The shaft was Brunel’s first completed project and was built using a revolutionary construction method developed by his father Marc Brunel.

When the shaft was completed in 1843 it became a grand entrance hall and was the first stop for the millions of visitors heading to the Thames Tunnel but it closed to the public in the 1860s and has been used as a ventilation tunnel ever since.

Jerry Tate, director of Tate Harmer, said: ‘We’re so pleased that this project is to become a reality, it’s a rare honour to work in such an important historical setting. We had to respect and protect Brunel’s legacy while providing people the opportunity to enjoy the space in new and exciting ways.’

Robert Hulse, director of the Brunel Museum, added: ‘We are delighted to be able to forge ahead with our plans to grant a new lease of life to this important piece of engineering history. Brunel was a showman as well as an engineer, and I’m sure he would have approved of holding performances in this new underground gallery. This will be one of the first exciting steps in the Brunel Museum’s ongoing plans to preserve Brunel’s first project and his enduring legacy for the enjoyment of the public’.

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