Residents living in luxury flats neighbouring the Tate Modern have given their backing to a lawsuit against the gallery for building a public platform that looks directly into some of their homes.
Five residents in the multi-million pound Neo Bankside flats have launched legal action against the gallery, claiming that the viewing platform of the Tate Modern extension, which opened last summer, breaches their human rights and has created a state of “near constant surveillance”.
In a writ filed to the high court, the residents said the “viewing platform is unreasonably interfering with the claimants’ enjoyment of their flats, so as to be a nuisance”.
They said gallery visitors look into their homes through binoculars and take pictures of their flats and post them on social media. Having their homes, which cost upwards of £1.5m, turned into a “goldfish bowl” also meant the flats no longer “provide a safe or satisfactory home environment for young children”, the legal documents state.
The Neo Bankside residents have been battling the Tate since the £260m Switch House extension opened in June last year. Several of those living in the building said it was not out of proportion that the dispute was now being taken to court.
“We don’t face it ourselves but I have seen the apartments that do and I think the lawsuit is reasonable,” said Suzanne Goldman. “People have paid a lot of money for these apartments and they are now a fishbowl for people looking in.
“I don’t know how many people realised that the Tate extension would include this viewing deck, or knew to seek out the plans before they moved in, but it really is now a case of people gawking and looking in through these big open windows. I understand where they’re coming from, because they’ve lost their privacy.”
Yumi Kumazawa, who has lived in the building for three years, said she also agreed with the lawsuit: “I think they are correct to be suing. I think their privacy should be respected.”
The five who are suing the Tate Modern seek an injunction preventing people from accessing certain areas of the viewing platform.
Previous solutions offered by Tate Modern’s former director, Nicholas Serota, include residents putting up net curtains over their windows, which look across the Thames all the way to Canary Wharf. An offer from residents to pay for a screen on one side of the viewing platform was rejected.
A couple who have lived in the building for two years, but whose flat faces the other direction, said they agreed that it was “appropriate to let a court of law decide”.
“We don’t know what discussions went on between Tate and those residents who it affects but I don’t think it would be too much to ask for Tate to put blinds over the windows that look directly into the flats,” they said. “We looked at a couple of the flats on that side but decided against them, mainly for reasons of privacy.”
Work began on the Neo Bankside apartment blocks in 2009, the same year the revised proposal for the Tate Modern extension, complete with viewing platform, was approved. It is understood that the developers, Native Land, did not object to the Switch House plans.
Not everyone is apparently bothered by their homes becoming a spectacle for Tate Modern tourists. One estate agent who had been showing potential residents around the flats said they were still very popular. He said they had just let a flat on the 15th floor which looked directly into the Tate and said most people loved the views.
Another homeowner in the building who moved in on Wednesday morning, and asked to remain anonymous, said he had heard about the court case. “No, it is not a concern for me,” he said. “When I heard about it I said ‘OK, that’s fine’. The people in Tate can probably see some things in my flat, but it is not a problem.”
Another resident who asked not to be named said the lawsuit was a “bit of an overreaction”.
“I can see what their concerns are, but it doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I think legal action is maybe a bit of an overreaction. There are wider concerns to be had in this world, and much wider issues in the building and with the developer than this.
“I think it’s a symptom of the chronic mismanagement of these kinds of issues. They could have been handled much better from the beginning.”
A spokesperson for Tate Modern 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.”
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