Tate director Nicholas Serota has been criticised for suggesting frustrated residents of the RSHP-designed Neo Bankside should put up net curtains to protect themselves from prying gallery-goers
Earlier this month the AJ revealed that angry occupants of the Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners-designed flats in Southwark had instructed lawyers in a bid to stop thousands of visitors to the Tate Modern extension peering into their glass-walled apartments.
Flat-owners in the 2015 RIBA Stirling Prize-shortlisted residential block had previously 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 from the 10th-floor viewing level of the Herzog & de Meuron-designed Switch House.
It is understood one exasperated resident even wrote to Serota personally asking him to intervene before his departure later this year (see AJ 08.09.15). However that plea seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
Asked by journalist James Hatts of website SE1 about how the Tate was responding to the residents’ concerns, Serota said: ’We have put up signs [saying that] the people who live nearby have a right to privacy. Obviously that privacy would be enhanced if those people decided that they might put up a blind or a net curtain or whatever, as is common in many places.’
That privacy would be enhanced if those people decided that they might put up a blind or a net curtain
He added: ‘I need to repeat the fact that clearly people purchasing those flats were in no doubt that Tate Modern was going to build its new Switch House building, and the character and uses of that building were widely known. People purchased with their eyes wide open.’
In response, one flat-owner, who wished to remain anonymous said: ‘It’s very disappointing to hear Serota believes net curtains are the answer. How would he feel if we suggested they put nets up in the windows of the Switch house? Neo had planning permission before the Tate did.
‘Permission was granted [for the extension] on the basis of a report that states that the overlooking would be “negligible”. As such, solicitors acting for purchasers weren’t made aware of it.
‘Families with young children live here, and having up to 10,000 people per day staring into their kitchen and living room taking photos, pointing and waving … is making our lives hell.’
Speaking to the AJ, Liberal Democrat councillor Adele Morris, who is championing the residents’ cause, said: ‘It was an ill-thought-out comment to make on Nick Serota’s part. Maybe he said it flippantly but it makes the Tate appear as very uncaring, especially when they are fully aware of the issues and distress [the overlooking] is causing residents.
‘It doesn’t put the Tate in a good light in terms of neighbourliness.’
Under their leasehold agreement, residents are not allowed to put up Venetian blinds
Talking about the impact on the privacy on the residents in the luxury apartments, she added: ‘Regardless of the big glass windows on Neo Bankside, there has to be a cut-off point where you say that the intrusion into the lives of the residents is not acceptable.’
The AJ understand that, under their leasehold agreement, residents are not allowed to put up Venetian blinds. They are now pushing for the Tate’s terrace to be cordoned off or for a screen to be built along the viewing platform.
Meanwhile, last weekend, in protest at the ongoing breach of privacy, one resident used their lounge space to display cardboard cut-outs, mocked up to look like Serota and his wife wearing their underwear.
They are, however, continuing to speak to their lawyers.
Morris concluded: ‘I hope these latest incidents won’t result in the Tate staying away from the table and sitting down to talk about the issues.’
Neo Bankside won planning permission in June 2007, and the scheme started on site two years later, completing 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, the developer behind Neo Bankside, did not raise any objections to the proposed terrace.
Speaking to the AJ earlier this month a spokesman for Native Land said: ‘While development of Neo Bankside had already begun when plans for the new gallery were submitted to the local authorities, potential buyers at Neo Bankside had access to marketing material which showed the location of the planned viewing gallery.
’A model showing the planned Tate extension in context to Neo Bankside was also available’.
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