Glass houses: London’s Tate Modern wins privacy fight

/ 09:57 PM February 12, 2019
Switch House extension of Modern Tate

In this photo, taken June 14, 2016, people stand in an area by the lifts in the new Switch House building extension to the Tate Modern gallery in London. On Tuesday Feb. 12, 2019, neighbors of London’s Tate Modern lost a legal fight to force the art gallery to close a viewing platform that gives visitors a view into their homes. (Photo by MATT DUNHAM / AP)

LONDON — A British judge ruled Tuesday that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw legal stones, rejecting a claim that a viewing platform at London’s Tate Modern art gallery invaded the privacy of residents in luxury apartments next door.

Owners of four glass-walled apartments in the Neo Bankside complex sought to force the gallery to block off part of a terrace that offers visitors views over London — and into their homes.


A lawyer for the homeowners argued the 10th-floor platform, used by up to a million gallery visitors a year, constitutes a “relentless” invasion of residents’ privacy. Their lawyer said gallery visitors subjected the apartments to “intense visual scrutiny,” with some using binoculars and zoom lenses to get a better look.

The gallery’s board said residents could solve the problem by drawing their blinds or putting up curtains.

High Court judge Anthony Mann dismissed the residents’ claim, noting that the claimants had chosen to live in apartments with floor-to-ceiling windows.

“These properties are impressive, and no doubt there are great advantages to be enjoyed in such extensive glassed views, but that in effect comes at a price in terms of privacy,” he said.

The judge denied the homeowners permission to appeal, although they can seek to challenge that ruling.

A lawyer for the claimants, Natasha Rees, said they were considering taking the case to the Court of Appeal. Rees said she was “extremely disappointed with today’s result.”

“My clients and their families will have to continue to live with this daily intrusion into their privacy,” she said.

Tate Modern said it was pleased the viewing platform “will remain available to our visitors.”

“We continue to be mindful of the amenity of our neighbors and the role Tate Modern has to play in the local community,” the gallery said.


Tate Modern opened in 2000 in a former power station on the south bank of the Thames River. It has helped transform the surrounding Bankside neighborhood from a riverside backwater into an arts and nightlife hub dotted with luxury apartment towers.

The viewing terrace is part of a pyramid-shaped extension that opened in 2016 at the gallery, which sees more than five million visitors a year. Neo Bankside was completed a few years earlier. /atm

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TAGS: Modern Tate, Neo Bankside, UK privacy case
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