Angry Neighbors Sue Tate Modern Over Nosy Visitors Looking Inside Their Luxury Apartments

The Tate says the “obvious” solution is for residents to shut the curtains. Former Tate director Nicholas Serota suggested that net curtains should do the job.

Visitors take pictures of the London skyline from the 10th floor viewing platform at the Tate Modern's new Switch House on June 14, 2016 in London, England. Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images.

If you’ve visited Tate Modern’s top-floor viewing platform to enjoy panoramic views of London, it is hard to overlook the luxury apartment block next door. Residents unhappy since the museum’s mega-extension opened in 2016 now have their day in court, arguing that the Tate’s viewing terrace is an “invasion of privacy.”

The platform is at the top of the ten-storey high Blavatnik Building, formerly called Switch House, which was designed by leading Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. The apartment block it overlooks, called NEO Bankside, was completed in 2012, and is designed by another heavy-weight team of architects, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. The battle over the privacy infringement has been ongoing since the owners of four apartments in the luxury apartment blocks launched the suit in 2017.

Their case against the museum finally began in a High Court in London on Friday, November 2. The residents are seeking an injunction requiring that the museum cordon off or otherwise block the part of the viewing platform that enables visitors to look into their apartments. The Tate installed notices asking visitors requesting visitors to “please respect our neighbours’ privacy,” after the terrace opened. 

The claimants’ lawyer told a judge that the invasion of privacy was “relentless,” the Press Association reports. Tom Weekes said the gallery is imposing “an unusually intense visual scrutiny” on his clients. As evidence, Weekes cited that one of the claimants had counted 84 people looking into his apartment and taking photos of the building in a single 90-minute period. Additionally, the man found a photo of himself on Instagram that had been posted to 1,027 followers. 

The court heard that “the only satisfactory solution to a problem arising from visitors to the viewing platform engaging in ‘viewing’ towards and into the claimants’ home is to prevent visitors from doing so.”

The view is a big draw to the museum. It helped secure planning permission from Southwark Council, as other viewing terraces look north across the Thames and over the City of London. A lawyer for the Tate, Guy Fetherstonhaugh, argued that the solution is “obvious:” Disturbed residents should draw their blinds or “put up curtains.” (This echoes the Tate’s former director Nicholas Serota’s suggestion in 2016 that upset residents buy net curtains.)

Fetherstonhaugh further argued that the museum’s expansion added value to the neighbor’s homes, and that the residents can’t “pick and choose” what they like and dislike about the local attraction. Fetherstonhaugh also argues that it is unreasonable to ask Tate to shut down a “valued resource” and deny the public the access “merely to give the claimants an unencumbered right to enjoy their own view.”

The case continues.

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