Residents of London’s Neo Bankside luxury apartment complex, next to the Tate Modern, have lately been dismayed to find photographs of their living rooms and bedrooms popping up on strangers’ Instagram feeds. These photos are being snapped by tourists on the observation deck of the Tate Modern’s new gallery extension, opened in June, which provides a direct view into the apartment building’s glass-walled dwellings. Now, apartment residents are claiming that museum visitors are using binoculars and zoom-lens cameras to spy on them, and they are threatening legal action against the Tate in attempt to regain their privacy.
“It’s terribly intrusive,” one Neo Bankside homeowner told the Daily Mail. “I bought this apartment because of the view but now I have to keep my blinds down whenever the platform is open, otherwise you get people waving at you.” The apartments sell for as much as £19 million (~$25 million USD). “If I had known what it would be like, I would never have bought a flat here. Now I think I would struggle to sell it.” London’s Southwark Council even sent child protection officials to the complex, concerned tourists were photographing children in the apartments without permission.
Since June, Neo Bankside residents have been in talks with the Tate about how to stop the peeping toms. Proposed solutions have included installing one-way mirror film on the apartments’ glass walls, installing view-blocking plants on the observation deck, or closing the section of the deck that faces the high rise. But so far, Tate has only installed a sign on the deck that reads “Please respect our neighbors’ privacy.”
The Neo Bankside apartments, designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, received planning permission in 2007. That was two years before the Tate Modern got the go-ahead to build the Switch House, a 211-foot-high gallery extension by Herzog & de Meuron.
The Tate has released a statement about the conflict with neighbors:
The viewing level is an intrinsic part of the free public offer of the new building, providing a 360-degree experience that is virtually unique to London. Since the very first plans were drawn up in 2006 we have been through an extensive consultation and planning process, and have maintained an ongoing dialogue with local residents. At no point during this process were any concerns raised regarding the viewing platform. There is signage encouraging the public and visitors to use it respectfully and responsibly.
But based on one tiled Instagram photo of the sign next to a close-up of a Neo Bankside living room, not all visitors are complying.