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The architecture

James Stirling was the architect invited by Tate to convert the northwest corner of the seven storey warehouse into a five storey modern art gallery, the biggest outside London. He visited the building in 1982 and a feasibility study for the project was commissioned.

What Stirling saw was a monumental brick and stone building built over a colonnade of sturdy Doric columns. The building, completed in 1848, was designed by the architecy Jesse Hartley and was one of the grandest examples of industrial architecture in Europe.

Despite being registered as a Grade 1 listed building in 1952 the warehouse had fallen into a state of disrepair. Work on its refurbishment began in October 1985 and the fitting out of the interior a year later.

Stirling & Wilford feasibility report for Tate in the North
© Centre Canadien d'Architecture/Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal

Stirling & Wilford feasibility report for Tate in the North
Interior of Albert Dock during its conversion  
Stirling's designs left the exterior of the building almost untouched but transformed the interior into an arrangement of simple, elegant galleries suitable for the display of modern art. The work was completed in 1988. A further phase of refurbishment was carried out in 1998 converting the previously unused top floor to create additional public facilities including an auditorium and further educational spaces as well as a temporary exhibition space.

Interior of Albert Dock during its conversion
© Tate Archive 2003