The unexpectedly controversial viewing platform on the 10th floor of the Tate Modern has reopened to the public, more than three years after it had to close.
The impetus for the closure was the pandemic, but what kept it closed was a long running and highly controversial court case brought against the Tate by the owners of the flats behind the art gallery.
They argued that people being able to look into their homes was an invasion of privacy, and while I am sympathetic to their plight, the viewing platform was announced before the flats were built, so they could hardly argue that they were unaware that they were going to be living next to a building with a viewing platform on it. To the considerable surprise of many, they not only argued that the Tate was breaching their privacy, they won.
For a while, it looked as if the top floor viewing gallery may have to remain closed forever, but it has reopened at long last – at least it’s partially open and with lots of “no photos” signs dotted around the residential facing areas.
It reopened on Monday, as the renamed Level 10, with a small cafe inside, and on three sides now, an exterior walkway with views, strictly policed only of the non-residential sides. So strictly, that when on the western side pointing my camera northwards to the river and absolutely not at the millionaire’s flats, I was still told to stop taking photos.
There are signs asking people to be respectful of their neighbour’s privacy, and now tape barriers block access to the south side that overlooks the irate flat owners.
Fortunately, there wasn’t a lot to see on the south side of the viewing platform, so other than an emotional sense of loss and irritation about the neighbour’s behaviour, in practice, it’s not a huge loss of actually interesting things to look at.
That’s because the main views are northwards, towards the City and beyond. You can just about make out the Wembley Arch, and much closer St Paul’s Cathedral, the City skyscraper cluster and over towards Canary Wharf, and if you peer around the other side, the Crystal Palace TV towers.
One of the nicer things about this viewing gallery is that it’s outside — you’re on a covered walkway which is shaded from the weather, but open enough to give you a better sense of being outside.
Now that it has reopened, all you need to do is take the lift right up to the top floor, and you can sit in the cafe, or just go straight out onto the viewing walkway, which is completely free to visit. You don’t need tickets to visit.
The reopened Level 10 is open daily from 10am to 5pm, with the last entry at 4:45pm, and can be accessed by lift from Levels 0 to 4.
Other central London viewing platforms include:
Horizon 22 – coming soon