Tate St Ives extension: repose and spaciousness Tate St Ives extension: repose and spaciousness - ImagesGram

Tate St Ives extension: repose and spaciousness

The new gallery at Tate St Ives in Cornwall is far more than just another white space – though to appreciate it fully you’ll need to pop out for a swim

Rowan Moore
Sunday 1 October 2017 08.00 BST

It looks at first sight like an awful lot of trouble for a room. Twelve years or more and £20m in the making, with chunks of granite hacked out of a cliff and homes relocated to make it possible, most of what the public will see of the expansion of Tate St Ives is a single large gallery. If you want to admire the exterior you have to walk out on the beach at low tide, or swim if it is high, to catch a view of one of its main aspects.

There is more to it than that, however. There is the back-of-house stuff – offices, art preparation facilities, a big shiny art handling lift – that the public mostly won’t see but which transform the workings of the gallery. There are improvements to Tate St Ives’s original 1993 building. New landscaped terraces formed on the roofs of the extension ease the steep public route down from the top of the cliff to the beach. Most importantly, the new gallery is not any old exhibition space but one that contains about as much intelligence, strength of mind and sensitivity as it is possible to put into a single plain rectangle. It is only a room, as Cezanne didn’t exactly say of Monet, but what a room.