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The Art of Partnership

24 March 2009

A long term partnership between SPIE Matthew Hall and the Tate Gallery has over two decades created an expert partner to not only maintain the facilities but also display valuable works of art to more than seven million visitors a year. Jane Fenwick reports

AARGUABLY THE MOST SUCCESSFUL TRANSFORMATION OF AN industrial building to new use has been at London’s Tate Modern, formerly Bankside Power Station. Not only has its rebirth as a world class art gallery proved to be a magnet for regeneration in the surrounding South Bank area beside the Thames, but it has also transformed the appreciation of modern art by huge numbers of people from home and abroad. A total of 5,236,702 passed through its doors into its vast Turbine Hall from April 2007 - March 2008.

Four Tate museums house the national collection of British Art from the 16th century onwards to the present day. In addition to Tate Modern, there is Tate Liverpool (694,228 visitors), Tate St Ives (243,993 visitors) and Tate Britain, the original Tate Museum upriver from Tate Modern in London’s Pimlico, (1,533,217 visitors). That total of over seven million visitors makes the four Tate galleries among the busiest in the world.

Buildings housing valuable and historical art collections require specific environmental conditions and expert 24/7 maintenance regimes. Twenty years ago, Tate museums began a long term relationship with SPIE Matthew Hall, awarding it a maintenance contract at Tate Liverpool in 1988. In 1999 this was extended to include the London sites. In 2008, this partnership spanning two decades was awarded the PFM Award 2008 in the Expert Services category.

By working in close partnership with Tate, SPIE Matthew Hall has developed an indepth knowledge of the needs of the visiting public, gallery curators and conservators and the unique requirements of the buildings. It now provides engineering operation and maintenance, design, energy and project management services to Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and the Tate Store (which houses paintings and sculpture by world-famous artists not currently on display in its 100,000sq m facility). It also provides energy monitoring services for Tate St. Ives. In addition to providing 24/7 on-site engineering resources, SPIE Matthew Hall’s Central Engineering Design Department offers engineering design and advice for all engineering disciplines across the museum family.

The judges said, "SPIE has developed a Research Centre, one of whose specific projects is to concentrate on how to save their client energy. They also prepare a life cycle costing plan for Tate buildings that cover engineering for 25 years and fabric for 50 years. Out of this comes a five-year forward maintenance plan and then the annual budget. A very good process.”

There are a number of specific challenges at the Galleries including working in listed buildings, strict environmental control requirements, ensuring safe public access and reacting effectively to frequent changes to exhibitions that make this contract unique. The key objective of SPIE Matthew Hall is to use effective building asset management to enhance the visitor experience and the preservation of artwork in a safe and sustainable manner. It delivers a flexible service which makes use of the expertise of the both the on-site and expert head office teams providing support outside the contract scope at no additional cost wherever possible. Its management team also works with the Tate Estates team to evaluate soft service FM tenders.

SPIE Matthew Hall frequently undertakes CDM projects using the museum’s on-site team, and currently it is managing the conversion of an old armament store near Salisbury to an art storage facility. This project includes widening doorways, improving lighting, altering loading docks and filling in railway lines. In agreement with Tate, this project is being managed by SPIE Matthew Hall’s Facilities Manager while some of his other non-essential duties have been reduced or reallocated.

SPIE Matthew Hall also works closely with the Tate to maintain the forward maintenance register, identifying all major assets and expected significant works, repairs and refurbishments. A Master Planner system ensures that all activities, including energy management and major projects, are co-ordinated and aligned enabling Tate to effectively target their resources for the coming five years and to minimise disruption.

SPIE Matthew Hall has become expert in the display and management of works of art and its staff often plays a key role in setting up exhibitions and improving the visitor experience through its Continuous Process Improvement Centre (CPI). Typical is how the on-site team developed a temporary wiring system for exhibitions which greatly reduced the time taken to build and dismantle them, reduced waste and improved safety. Currently the CPI centre is evaluating a bio-diesel processing machine to establish whether the waste oil from the Tate’s restaurants can be used to partly fuel the Green Travel service mini-bus.

SPIE Matthew Hall also manages the design and installation of projects at the Tate Galleries. While many of the projects could be classed as ‘standard design and build’, SPIE Matthew Hall has also played an integral part in bringing the vision of artists to life. Among the most challenging is the annual Turner Prize exhibition held at Tate Britain. In 2001 artist Martin Creed created his ‘The lights going on and off’ entry as
part of the Turner Prize. SPIE Matthew Hall brought Creed’s vision to life by designing, installing and maintaining a lighting system that switched on and off every five seconds for three months. In 2003, Roger Hiron’s ‘Vauxhall’ involved the design and installation of a burner underneath the Sculpture Court at Tate Britain with a grill fitted above and flames rising out. More recently, in early 2008 it assisted in the installation of Jean Prouvé’s ‘The Poetics of the Technical Object’, assisting the artist’s installation team and liaising with Building Control.

The judges observed that, “SPIE Matthew Hall seem not just interested, but really passionate about working for the Tate. Their staff are encouraged to go to art lectures and know where art is hung in order to help direct the public. They also provide the engineering design input to exhibits where there are technical requirement. A thoroughly integrated relationship and we got a genuine feeling that SPIE staff were Tate.“

The central design team also recently undertook a Stage B design for a Tate Britain major refurbishment project. The team developed the M&E engineering concept, building into the design the knowledge and experience of the on-site team to deliver the most advantageous solution for Tate.

A number of energy and environmental initiatives are currently in progress to enable the Tate to meet its goal of meeting the Museum and Galleries Energy Committee’s best practice benchmarks within the next three years. Energy meters are interrogated on a weekly basis and unusual consumption patterns highlighted and investigated. Formal monthly, quarterly and annual reports demonstrate progress towards
reducing energy consumption.

Energy surveys of all the Tate sites have been conducted and an action plan developed which is now being implemented. With the key issues highlighted, a detailed design and specification works are underway to provide Tate with a comprehensive energy solution. Works range from minor adjustments of plant and equipment to the installation of variable speed drives, a borehole feasibility study and a monitoring and metering strategy. Information was prepared on energy consumption and building data in preparation for providing Tate with Display Energy Certificates by summer 2008.

Currently SPIE Matthew Hall is providing detailed design and installation of a heat reclaim project at Tate Modern. It is providing a prefabricated plant room manufactured off-site which will interface with the existing systems to make use of the waste heat reducing on-site energy consumption.

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