They were sold on their proximity to Tate Modern. Now the residents of luxury flats are taking the gallery to court, arguing its viewing platform invades their privacy. It’s part of a wider hijacking of cultural hotspots by property developers
Good walls make good neighbours – but not, it seems, when they are made entirely of glass. Five residents of the multi-million-pound Neo Bankside towers, which loom behind Tate Modern like a crystalline bar chart of inflated land values, have issued a legal writ to the museum to have part of its viewing platform shut down. They claim that its 10th-floor public terrace has put their homes into a state of “near constant surveillance”.
Climb to the summit of the Tate’s new twisted brick ziggurat and you are rewarded with majestic views of London’s skyline, where St Paul’s dome now competes for attention with the portly stump of the Walkie-Talkie, the swollen shaft of One Blackfriars and a host of other novelty forms in the capital’s own drunken sculpture garden. But most visitors are to be found huddled around the other side of the terrace, gawping at a spectacle of another kind: the pristine still lives of rich people’s homes.
It is particularly odd that the claim is being brought by residents of a development where the towers are packed so close together that they can already see into each other’s homes. Nor should the Tate’s viewing terrace have come as a surprise. The museum’s plans were already well known when the flats went on sale, and the developers of Neo Bankside had actively supported the museum’s extension.
Commenting on the original planning application, which received permission in 2009, Neo’s owners, GC Bankside, stated that it “strongly supports the latest proposals, which will increase the attractiveness of the location as a visitor destination and will result in a number of other positive benefits for the area”.
The arrival of the £260m Switch House would clearly add to their bottom line – indeed the presence of the Tate was the very reason this luxury development was built here in the first place. “Move in next door to Warhol, Dalí and Picasso,” cooed the advertisement for the flats, published in Tate’s own magazine in 2011, and “brush shoulders with some illustrious arty types.” As long as the arty types don’t come too close, or have the temerity to look back.
It is an iniquitous phenomenon that is happening across the city and beyond, where the very things that make an area attractive – and prompt the influx of property speculators – are then cast as nuisances to be wiped out.