The “Tate Effect” on the South Bank
Urban Regeneration through the Bankside Urban Forest
ABSTRACT: Opening in 2000, the Tate Modern presented a compelling type of museum building. Housed in a former power station, the industrial character of the original structure was maintained, even celebrated, in the conversion. In addition to providing much needed space for the Tate’s growing twentieth-century art collection, the transformation of the building into a museum of modern art was intended to have larger urban implications with the ambitious goal of stimulating regeneration in South Bank, “the Cultural Heart of London.” As a flagship of the South Bank’s Millennium Mile and directly linked to St. Paul’s Cathedral by the new London Millennium Footbridge, the Tate Modern would infuse culture and money into a depressed part of London. In the decade and a half since the publication of Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class and the opening of the Tate Modern, the role of culture in urban reimaging efforts has been exploited, debated, and problematized. This paper explores select exemplars of the spillover benefits of the Tate Modern’s success and positive externalities that produced modest and sometimes ephemeral installations that breathed new life and joy into the South Bank. Considered through the lens of educational reformer and philosopher John Dewey’s call to reposition art within the realm of the everyday, the Tate multiplier effect is considerable. In particular, works created within the Bankside Urban Forest framework, a collaboration-driven initiative of Better Bankside Business Improvement District, are foregrounded as remarkable and authentic examples of how a design framework can employ urban heritage, contemporary art and design, and ecological expertise to generate urban improvements at all scales. From these evidences, it is clear that the instrumentality of the museum is rightfully a strategy that should continue in public policy and museological discussions as governments attempt to curate architecture, heritage, and history in urban regeneration initiatives.
KEYWORDS: museum, regeneration, multiplier effect, spillover benefits