With all the glass residential towers going up with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the hotshot cities of the world, the global market for binoculars and telescopes must be going haywire. But not everyone wants to be caught in the two-ring circus at the business end of someone else’s binoculars.
My recent post “Looking down on the Chrysler” on the blog This East Side explained how condo owners in Manhattan might soon be spying on each other, turning the Upper East Side into Peyton Place. Several readers have sent me the link to Oliver Wainwright’s piece “Gawpers Go Home!” in the Guardian – about a new London tower, the Neo Bankside, whose residents are suing the Tate Modern because visitors to its observation terrace keep “gawping” into their plate-glass windows.
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.
Boo-hoo! Wainwright doesn’t suffer these fools gladly, any less than he does the peeping Toms at the Tate, of whom he writes:
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 of the 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.
The way he describes the “majestic” London skyline may explain why people would rather go to the “dull” side of the terrace to violate the privacy of rich people, whose taste certainly arouses Wainwright’s derision.
Like a vertical stack of Damien Hirst’s formaldehyde tanks, the apartments of Neo Bankside are piled up just metres away, their glass vitrines displaying glistening tableaux of Eames chairs, Castiglioni lamps and ornamental fruit in silver bowls – along with plenty of expensive telescopes for spying on the surrounding panorama. But it seems the residents want their crow’s nest views to work only one way.
Wainwright rolls his eyes at residents’ chances of winning their lawsuit, in which they seek damages for placing themselves willingly and with stupidity aforethought into their own “goldfish bowl.” Tate officials early on suggested putting up blinds or curtains – but that would hardly do! Why have magnifi- cent views if you must block them? Naturally, since their building faces the Tate Modern, I would argue with their definition of magnificent.
Wainwright’s article stretches out the what-ifs of viewupmanship as London’s booming tower market opens new lines of business for solicitors. No doubt the legal eagles of Manhattan are looking down from their aeries, paying very close attention.