The art world was surprised when architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron won the commission to design the Tate Modern in London, which opened to critical raves in May. They bested better-known competitors such as Britain's Nicholas Grimshaw or Italy's Renzo Piano.
In fact, the Basel firm of Herzog & de Meuron was probably the perfect choice to convert a power-generation plant into a venue for modern art. The two 50-year-old Basel natives are known for deploying common materials in surprising ways. For instance, in California's Napa Valley, they built a winery with walls of volcanic rock encased in wire mesh. "You don't need to read books and have visited a university to understand what's in front of you," Herzog says. The result is humanistic and elegant--a welcome contribution to any landscape.