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Neo-Bankside residents instruct lawyers over Tate viewing gallery


Residents of the RSHP-designed towers are trying to stop thousands of visitors to the neighbouring Tate Modern extension peering into their homes

Angry occupants of the Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners-designed flats in Southwark claim gallery-goers are using zoom lens cameras and binoculars to look into their glass-walled apartments from the Tate’s popular new 10th floor viewing level.

Flat-owners in the 2015 Stirling Prize-shortlisted residential block told the AJ they felt like an extra ‘exhibit of the Tate’ and that they were regularly stared at for more than 12 hours a day.

It is understood letters have also been written to the Tate flagging up potential child protection issues.

Liberal Democrat councillor Adele Morris, who has taken up the residents’ concerns with the gallery over the impact of the south facing terrace at the rear of the £265 million Herzog & de Meuron-designed extension, described the situation as ‘exceptional and unusual’.

She told the AJ: ‘I was shocked when I walked behind visitors on the terrace and saw them using their zoom lenses [to look] into people’s living rooms - and then I went into a flat and witnessed them waving and pointing. The residents feel they are part of an extended art exhibition. It is really distressing for them.’

In July, Morris met representatives from the Tate in a bid to thrash out a solution, along with Southwark’s director of planning Simon Bevan, Dan Clarke and James Henderson from Native Land – the developer behind Neo-Bankside - and John O Mara from Herzog and de Meuron.

However residents’ calls for the terrace to be cordoned off, or for a screen to be built along the viewing platform, have fallen on deaf ears. The Tate said it had put up notices asking visitors to behave ‘respectfully’ but was not willing to restrict access or use of the area.

One resident told the AJ that the Tate had written to them suggesting they should install blinds, curtains or other appropriate privacy measures.

Morris added: ‘Either the Tate or Native Land or both must try and solve this, but despite several weeks of negotiation with all parties little has changed. I don’t think this is fair on the residents, and will keep the pressure on Tate and Native Land until they do something to properly deal with this.’

Now the residents have instructed a specialist planning lawyer to deal with the issues of privacy and public nuisance.

Neo Bankside won planning permission in June 2007 and the scheme started on site two years later and finished in 2012.

The original Tate Modern extension – then with a glass facade - was permitted in December 2008, and included a roof-top terrace. A revised proposal including a brick facade and the viewing gallery was permitted in May 2009 as work began on the adjacent Neo-Bankside.

It is understood Native Land did not raise any objections to the proposed terrace.


Morris added: ‘The Tate Modern extension and its viewing gallery were permitted in planning terms – as was Neo Bankside. However nobody really clocked the impact this was going to have on the residents living in the apartments.’

In response, a spokesperson for Tate Modern said: ‘The viewing level is an intrinsic part of the free public offer of the new building, providing a 360 degree experience that is virtually unique to London. Since the very first plans were drawn up in 2006 we have been through an extensive consultation and planning process, and have maintained an ongoing dialogue with local residents.

’During the development of the project, we were also approached by a number of those considering buying properties in the Neo Bankside complex, and shared information fully. At no point during this process were any concerns raised regarding the viewing terrace. There is signage encouraging the public and visitors to use it respectfully and responsibly.’

A spokesman for Native Land said: ’While development of NEO Bankside had already begun when plans for the new gallery were submitted to the lcoal authorities, potential buyers at NEO Bankside had access to marketing material which showed the lcoation of the planned viewing gallery. 

’A model showing the planned Tate extension in context to NEO Bankside was also available’.

Last week the extension was named among the finalists for the 2016 Beazley Designs of the Year by the Design Museum (see AJ 01.09.16). 

Project Timeline:

16.06.07 – Neo Bankside – Planning Permission granted

23.12.08 - Tate Modern – Planning Permission granted for 12-level extension

19.03.09 – Tate Modern – Application for 11 level extension (revised application from 12 level extension)

15.05.09 – Tate Modern – Planning Permission granted for 11 level extension

19.04.11 - Neo Bankside – Public Realm Area Management Plan for site

06.06.11 - Neo Bankside – Application for Approval of Details

26.07.11 - Neo Bankside – Deed of Modification

15.11.11 - Tate Modern – Approval of Reserved/Outstanding Matters relating to Erection of 11-level extension

24.07.12 - Neo Bankside – Supplemental Deed

22.08.14 – Tate Modern – Details of landscaping for 11 level extension approved


Readers' comments (7)

  • Bit odd to buy a flat with glass walls if you are concerned about privacy.

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  • ahhh, Somone can see inside their mulitmillion pound apartment- my heart bleeds for them

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  • Are you saying that there are people living there?

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  • As densities increase roof level public space in London is extremely valuable for expanding the public realm so I’d hope this doesn’t stall further expansion of such provision which has recently given London so many wonderful new public roof spaces. What I noticed somewhat ironically on my visit to the Tate was high powered telescopic binoculars on a tripod at one of the Neo Bankside windows. Perhaps there is now a sort of unusual two way conversation starting.

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  • "In response, a spokesperson for Tate Modern said: ‘The viewing level is an intrinsic part of the free public offer of the new building, providing a 360 degree experience that is virtually unique to London." Are they serious? Virtually unique?

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  • Given that the Tate Modern exhibits are sometimes inclined to perform (I'll forever remember the piano standing on the ceiling), it's surely not unreasonable to view life in the flats - still and otherwise - as just part of the natural evolution of life as art, literally the human zoo.
    And if our society is capable of dreaming up the Carbuncle Cup, how about a Neo Cockney Cup? - always assuming that folk up there in the air might occasionally be within earshot of the Bow Church bells, when the wind is in the East.

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  • Surely there's a solution involving Lumisty or a similar product to allow views to be retained but restrict the angle of view.

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