Miroslaw Balka installation, Tate Modern

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Shonn Mills. Ramboll

Shonn Mills

PE MASCE CEng MICE, Global Spearhead Director, High-Rise Buildings
T: +65 852 321 97

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Tate Modern, London's home of international modern art, is located in a converted power station. Its cavernous former Turbine Hall is 152m x 24m and 30m high, and is the venue for a series of large-scale installations. Miroslaw Balka is the tenth artist to contribute to The Unilever Series, creating a house-sized, light-tight walk-in box on stilts — a sensory deprivation experience.

We worked closely with Balka to finalise the structural design, taking into account a number of constraints, including the floor loading capacity and structural limits of the Turbine Hall. Balka requested that the temporary structure be minimal in detail and portable — the Tate remains open during most art construction works. Balka wanted visitors to be able to walk around the box as well as underneath it.

The solution was a simple steelwork unobtrusive frame, modular in design, making it quick and easy to construct on site with minimal disruption. The box was bolted together, avoiding the need for on-site welding and enabling dismantling for transportation. Close work with the artist and steel fabricators produced high quality, precisely-built steel roof and wall panels that eliminated gaps. The 2.5m wide panels clipped inside the frame and were finished internally with black velvet flocking to achieve a light-less void.

The resulting 30m long x 10m wide x 13m high 'room' rested on 2m columns in the centre of one end of the hall. The south end of the box lay open, providing a full-width ramp to the internal space. Positioning the installation to face the rear of the hall helped eliminate natural light. Some of the hall's roof lights were blacked out during The Black Box’s six month exhibition.

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