A room with a view: Angry neighbours lose Tate Modern balcony case

18 February 2019

A recent high court decision has rejected claims that a neighbouring viewing platform amounted to nuisance and an invasion of privacy.

The residents of a luxury tower block brought the claims against the Tate Modern, as the Tate’s viewing platform offered museum visitors uninhibited views into their apartments. The High Court has now ruled against the residents, meaning members of the public can continue to look forward to enjoying panoramic views of London – and close-ups of the neighbouring apartments.

The history of the case dates back to when the Tate Modern first unveiled designs for its new Blavatnik Building in 2009. The level 10 viewing platform in question was an integral part of the design and offers visitors stunning 360 degree views of London and the surrounding areas. The viewing platform was first opened to members of the public in 2016.

The residential block in question, the Neo Bankside development designed by Richard Rogers, was opened in 2012. A prominent feature in the design of the apartments is the use of ceiling to floor glass walls, which offer their own impressive views of London. Unfortunately for the residents, they also offer impressive views into the apartments from the Tate.

The residents first brought their claim in 2017, claiming nuisance and breach of privacy under the Human Rights Act. It attracted significant attention at the time, to the extent that in 2018 artist Max Siedentopf ironically installed binoculars on the viewing platform so that visitors could better enjoy their favourite artwork at the Tate: the view into the neighbouring apartments.

Mr Justice Mann took a similarly dismissive view in his decision, ruling that the residents had “submitted themselves to sensitivity to privacy” due to the prominent use of glass in their apartments. He held that use of the glass wall design, while offering impressive views, “comes at a price in terms of privacy”. Also persuasive, in Mr Justice Mann’s view, was the fact that the Tate had already taken steps to alleviate any infringement, significantly reducing the opening hours of the viewing platform.

The residents’ lawyer has said that they are considering an appeal.

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