Ministructures: Tate Modern

As part of our Ministructures series, artist Lucy Sparrow has made felt versions of London’s landmarks. For each iconic building she stitches, we meet a Londoner connected with it. This week, we talk to James Pockson, 24, an architectural assistant working on the Tate Modern extension.

Hi James! What do you think makes Tate Modern so great?
‘Visually it’s so strong – it’s unforgettable. For Giles Gilbert Scott, the architect, who was also involved in designing Battersea Power Station, Bankside Power Station was his baby. In its original conception as a power station, the building had cathedral-like stature. St Paul’s across the river was a cathedral for religion; this was a cathedral for power. And then they had the incredible idea of turning it into a cathedral for art.’

What’s planned for the gallery?
‘The Tanks, which opened last year, was phase one of the project that I’ve been working on since 2011. There it was about turning an industrial structure – an oil tank – into a performance space. It was a real architectural feat. The tower that we are working on will be very exciting, as it will bring together a total conception of an art gallery – with not just art but also offices, learning spaces, restaurants and a bar. It will have a social function, which will change gallerygoers’ experience.’

How does it feel to be working on such an iconic building?
‘It’s a lot of hard work but it’s a real privilege. Through working on the Tate Modern I’ve become very attached to it – I feel so lucky to have contributed to the development of such an important landmark. When the hours get long and I’m working until late at night it’s that thought that keeps me going.’

What is it about architecture that appeals to you?
‘I really enjoy building and making stuff. And I love the experience of cities. For me it’s not just about the history, though – the feel of them is very important. This is an exciting time to be an architect. But there are issues that my generation will have to seriously deal with soon, like sustainability and scarcity. Things that the current major players aren’t fully engaging with.’

What do you do when you’re not working?
‘I like to keep active – I do a lot of rock climbing and yoga. I’m a member of Brixton Climbers’ Club – we go on trips to the south coast and the Peak District. I also cycle all over London. Cycling is something I feel strongly about – London’s so badly designed for bikes, and I want to help improve it.’

What do you make of our tiny Tate Modern?
‘I think it’s great. Its smile reminds me of how I feel every time I come here.’

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