In Brief

Tate Modern’s Neighbors Take the Museum to Court Over Privacy Concerns

The London museum’s 10-floor viewing terrace has a 360-degree view of the city, which includes direct sight lines into a nearby luxury apartment’s intimate interiors.

Detail shot of the Tate Modern’s Blavatnik building (image courtesy Tate Modern, photo © Iwan Baan)

The 360-degree view from the top of Tate Modern’s 10-floor Blavatnik Building offers unparalleled views of London’s skyline — and inside the apartments of a nearby luxury development.

On November 2, London’s High Court began hearing a privacy lawsuit against the museum that made headlines when it was filed last year. Four owners of the condominiums in the NEO Bankside building, completed in 2012, decided to sue the Tate in an effort to compel the museum to block the part of its viewing platform where visitors are able to see into their multimillion-dollar apartments. The museum extension featuring the observation deck was completed in 2016 by the Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron.

Guy Fetherstonhaugh, a lawyer representing the Tate board of trustees, told the court that the apartment owners want to “deny to the public the right to use the viewing platform for its intended purpose merely to give the claimants an unencumbered right to enjoy their own view.” But residents of the NEO Bankside building, whose apartments carrying a minimum price tag of about $2.5 million, are concerned that their privacy is being interrupted daily at an abnormally high rate.

Previously, the Tate has suggested that the problem be solved with the installation of floor-to-ceiling curtains in the neighboring buildings. Fetherstonhaugh has also argued that the museum’s expansion actually increased the value of the apartments and that residents can’t “pick and choose” the costs and benefits of living next to London’s second most-attended attraction.

While it may seem incredulous that buyers of a glass-walled luxury apartment would be surprised by onlookers, residents say that the amount of exposure incurred by the museum’s observation deck exceeds reasonable expectations with “near constant surveillance,” according to the filed lawsuit.

Tom Weekes, a lawyer for the NEO Bankside residents, argued last Friday that the Tate imposes an unusually intense visual scrutiny. According to him, one of the claimants once counted 84 people photographing the building over a 90-minute period and “discovered that a photo of himself had been posted on Instagram to 1,027 followers.”

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