Architect who lives next to Tate Modern wants to shut viewing gallery

Architect who claims Tate Modern visitors aimed ‘obscene gestures’ at her in her £2m apartment launches fresh legal bid to shut down the tenth-floor viewing gallery

  • Lindsay Urquhart lives with her daughter in the exclusive Neo Bankside complex
  • Her glass-walled home is a stone’s throw from the Thames and Tate Modern 
  • Gallery’s tenth-floor viewing gallery allows direct view into her home 
  • High Court threw her case out, saying she and others should use net curtains 

An architect who claims Tate Modern visitors aimed ‘obscene gestures’ at her in her £2million apartment has launched a fresh legal bid to shut down the 10th-floor viewing gallery. 

Company CEO Lindsay Urquhart says she feels ‘completely exposed’ and worries about her daughter being in parts of her flat in the exclusive millionaires’ block Neo Bankside, an opulent complex just a stone’s throw from the River Thames.

The 47-year-old claims visitors using the Tate Modern’s tenth floor viewing gallery, which allows direct views into her glass-walled home, allows intrusive scrutiny.  

She says she has experienced visual intrusion and photography, people waving and obscene gestures and claims that when she visited the gallery she overheard one visitor say that the ‘rich b***ards’ who lived in Neo Bankside deserved the intrusion that the gallery afforded.

Pictured: Lindsay Urquhart arrives at the Court of appeal in central London to fight the High Court’s decision 

Along with four of her wealthy neighbours, she sued the Board of Trustees of the Tate Gallery, seeking an injunction forcing part of the viewing gallery to be shut down or screened to block direct views into their block.

But their case was thrown out by the High Court last February after Mr Justice Mann found that the gallery visitors were not committing a legal ‘nuisance’ by peering into the designer glass-walled flats.

The judge suggested that rather than Tate Modern shutting part of the viewing platform – which is a major tourist attraction- the offended neighbours could put up net curtains instead.

Owners of multi-million pound flats (pictured right) overlooked by the Tate Modern (left) have lost their High Court battle to stop ‘hundreds of thousands of visitors’ seeing directly into their homes when visiting its viewing platform 

Now Mrs Urquhart and her neighbours are asking the Court of Appeal to reverse that ruling, with their lawyers arguing that the judge made blunders when he dismissed their claim.

The building designer turned boss of multinational HR company Bespoke Career Management Ltd lives in a flat below the level of the gallery.

In her witness statement before Mr Justice Mann, she explained that when she bought her flat she knew that the Tate Modern Blavatnik Building was being built, but did not know there was to be a public viewing gallery.

A photograph taken from the viewing platform in 2016 shows how visitors can see into the apartments at Neo Bankside 

She assumed the south section – facing Neo Bankside – would be used only for emergency access, and never contemplated the degree of intrusion into the flats which this section gave, she said.

She told the court that since then she has experienced ‘visual intrusion and photography, people waving and obscene gestures,’ and ‘upsetting’ coverage on social media.

She also stated that when she visited the gallery, ‘she overheard one visitor to the gallery say that the ‘rich b***ards’ who lived in the flats deserved the intrusion that the gallery afforded.’

Pictured: The viewing gallery at the Tate Modern, from which visitors can peer into the Neo Bankside apartment block 

Without her blinds being closed, she said she feels completely exposed in her kitchen, will not let her young daughter into the exposed areas and keeps the blinds closed when the numbers are at their worst.

Tom Weekes QC, for Mrs Urquhart and her neighbours, asked appeal judges Sir Terence Etherton, Lord Justice Leweson and Lady Justice Rose to rule that the High Court’s findings of fact should have led Mr Justice Mann to find that a nuisance was being caused and to grant the injunction.

Mr Justice Mann found that the Tate Modern was not ‘making an unreasonable use of its land,’ adding that Mrs Urquhart and her neighbours should ‘expect to have to put up with some give and take appropriate to modern society and locale.’

The viewing platform seems to give a perfect view of Neo Bankside apartments (pictured) 

The neighbours’ QC argued today ‘the learned judge applied the wrong legal test by asking whether the defendant was making an unreasonable use of its land.’

Mr Weekes said the judge’s findings of fact about the type of scrutiny and intrusion which the neighbours had been exposed to ought to have led automatically to a conclusion that the gallery was creating a nuisance for residents of the block.

The judge’s findings had included that ‘the overlooking from the viewing gallery was disturbing, intrusive and a material intrusion into the privacy of their living accommodation,’ he said.

A photograph taken from the viewing platform shows how visitors can look directly into the flats at the Neo Bankside development on London’s South Bank 

The judge had accepted that ‘peering into the flats…waving and obscene gestures occurs,’ he said, and also that it ‘happens to a disturbing extent,’ said the QC.

The judge also found that the view into two flats at the same level as the viewing gallery was ‘clear,’ adding ‘one can indeed see all sorts of aspects of the daily life of the occupants.’

‘The inevitable legal consequence of Mr Justice Mann’s findings of fact is that the defendant is committing a nuisance,’ Mr Weekes told the Appeal Court.

Pictured: The Tate Modern, with Neo Bankside apartments to the left of the art gallery in central London 

‘Having found that the viewing gallery has a ‘disturbing’ and ‘intrusive’ impact on the claimants’ enjoyment of their flats and that it is not unduly sensitive of the claimants to feel as they do about the privacy invasion, the learned judge should, without further ado, have concluded that Tate Modern is committing a nuisance,’ he argued.

‘Tate Modern should not be able to use parts of the platform for a purpose which, whilst not necessary for the ordinary use of Tate Modern, very substantially harms the amenity of the claimants’ flats as homes.

‘The learned judge made the uncontroversial point that Neo Bankside and Tate Modern are situated in a locality which is an inner-city urban environment with a significant amount of tourist activity, in which an occupier can expect rather less privacy than perhaps a rural occupier might.

‘The learned judge held that due to the fact that the design of the claimants’ flats makes them abnormally sensitive to privacy invasions, Tate Modern is not committing a nuisance.

‘But the claimants had a reasonable expectation of not being subject to dedicated viewing by hundreds of thousands of people even if they had big windows,’ he said.

‘The learned judge’s approach does not adequately protect the claimant privacy rights,’ the QC concluded.

Lawyers for the Board of Trustees of the Tate Gallery are arguing that the High Court judge was right and his decision should stand.

The Appeal Court have now reserved their judgment to be given at a later date.

Sir Terence commented that it was ‘a very important case,’ adding that it could if Mrs Urquhart and her neighbours succeed potentially open the ‘floodgates’ for complaints in ‘every single case where there’s planning permission granted and there’s a balcony overlooking.’


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