Last year, residents of London’s glass-walled Neo Bankside condo complex adjacent to Tate Modern’s new Switch House wing complained that the museum’s visitors were violating their privacy. In addition to offering sweeping vistas of central London, the new Tate building’s observation deck offers clear views directly into the flashy flats. Now, five Neo Bankside residents are suing Tate, claiming the museum has effectively placed them under “near constant surveillance,” turning their lives into “public exhibits” and their apartments into “goldfish bowls,” according to the Independent. Their claim accuses Tate of violating articles of the European Convention of Human Rights by refusing to respect their homes and private family lives, according to the Architects’ Journal.
Last year, Tate placed signs that read “please respect our neighbours’ privacy” in areas overlooking the NEO Bankside buildings, but that has not prevented visitors from posting invasive images of the museum’s neighbors on social media. In a statement to Dezeen, a Tate spokesperson said: “The design of the building has always included a high-level terrace for the benefit of the public, but we cannot comment further given the conditions of the legal process.”
“[The] viewing platform is unreasonably interfering with the claimants’ enjoyment of their flats, so as to be a nuisance,” the residents’ suit states, adding that the current situation does “not provide a safe or satisfactory home environment for young children.” The residents suggest that Tate, “at little or no cost, could easily stop this invasion of the claimants’ privacy and home life” by cordoning off the side of the observation deck that faces their building. The residents are also seeking to have the museum pay their legal expenses.
However, some see the residents’ lawsuit as fundamentally wrongheaded. “These people are unreal,” Andy Weir, a neighbor who says he was shown plans for the Tate extension when he looked into buying a flat at Neo Bankside, told the Independent. “I live next door to Neo and we became overlooked by them. They think they are the only ones who can have a view?”
Current listings for Neo Bankside apartments range from £795,000 (~$1 million) £2.5 million (~$3.2 million), though a penthouse could run you as much as £22.5 million (~$28.9 million) — or a little less than one tenth of the Tate Switch House wing’s £260 million (~$333 million) cost.