The Tate Modern Switch House has ten levels above ground, is 65m tall and equivalent in height of a 20 storey building, providing 65,000m2 of new space over 11 levels.
In order to provide column free spaces within the North gallery on level 04, the six storey 1700T northern façade above it had to be carried on the gallery’s long span roof structure. However, as the building above was being constructed, loads on this roof structure would increase and it would deflect, preventing achievement of the very tight tolerances required. The judges were impressed by the incorporation of a structural system that was designed to distribute loads and control, monitor and adjust movement of the gallery’s long span roof structure during this process. The jacks were used finely to adjust the levels of the roof structure whilst the building above grew larger and heavier. Once complete, the jacks were grouted solid.
With no movement joints, the 336,000 brick façade was constructed to incredible tolerances of +/- 2mm. The engineers designed a hand laid system with prefabricated blocks, dowels instead of mortar and corbels as supports, in collaboration with Cambridge University, determining the optimum arrangement of supports for the individual bricks in specially built test rigs. The design recuced a build programme of five years to 18 months, with construction possible in all weather.