Tate Harmer – the practice behind last year’s acclaimed TREExOFFICE in Hoxton Square – is now set to transform a key piece of London’s industrial heritage at the Brunel Museum. Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s first project, the Rotherhithe shaft in the Grade II* listed Thames Tunnel, will soon open as one of the capital’s newest performance spaces, 190 years after construction began, and 150 years after it was formally closed to the public.
Central to the plan is Tate Harmer’s freestanding, cantilevered staircase, which grants the public access to this enduring slice of engineering history. Thanks to this new addition, the former entrance shaft to the historic Thames Tunnel will become a newly accessible underground space and a key exhibit for the museum, hosting events and performances. In addition, Tate Harmer’s ingenious ‘ship-in-a-bottle’ design ensures that disturbance to the historic structure is minimal during construction of the shaft.
Tate Harmer’s involvement will help see a project come to fruition that was originally begun by Brunel’s father Marc Isambard Brunel in 1825. It is the only project that father and son worked on together, and the latter’s first. The Brunel Museum is located close to the south bank of the River Thames in Rotherhithe, immediately west of Brunel’s Rotherhithe sinking shaft in the tunnel’s Engine House, which is a scheduled ancient monument.