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Foster + Partners plans 305m-tall ‘Tulip’ tourist tower next to Gherkin


Foster + Partners has submitted plans for a 305m-tall visitor attraction shaped like a giant tulip next to the Gherkin in the City of London

The 2,889m² project is being backed by billionaire banker Jacob J Safra, owner of the neighbouring 30 St Mary Axe tower, and work could begin on site as early as 2020.

According to the practice, the scheme will feature glazed observation levels supported by a huge concrete shaft to create ‘a new state-of-the-art cultural and educational resource for Londoners and tourists’.

There are also plans internally for glass slides and gondola pod rides.

The tower, dubbed The Tulip, would become the tallest building in the City, edging above Eric Parry’s proposed 1 Undershaft, which has an estimated completed height of 304m. However, it would still be slightly shorter than Renzo Piano’s Shard skyscraper (306m) across the river.    

An announcement from the practice said: ’Visitors will benefit from interactive materials and briefings from expert guides about the history of London. Complementing the experience will be a sky bar and restaurants with 360-degree views of the city.’

Norman Foster, said: ‘Continuing the pioneering design of 30 St Mary Axe, the Tulip is in the spirit of London as a progressive, forward-thinking city. It offers significant benefits to Londoners and visitors as a cultural and social landmark with unmatched educational resources for future generations.’

As well as the main tower, the planning application also inculdes a new entrance pavilion with public roof terrace, and provision for 284 bicycle parking spaces for staff and visitors.

The visitor attraction will offer free entry to 20,000 London state school children a year.

Jacob J Safra, whose Bury Street Properties company is funding the project, added: ’The Tulip’s elegance and soft strength complements the iconic Gherkin. We are confident in London’s role as a global city and are proud to offer its school children a state-of-the-art classroom in the sky to appreciate London’s history and dynamism.’

Foster + Partners said the building’s eventual weight would be ‘equivalent to 80 fully loaded Airbus A380s on a footprint that is half the size of a single plane’.

It is understood the practice, as part of the pre-application process, met with the City of London Corporation a dozen times and Historic England four times before the application’s submission.

The project is scheduled for completion in 2025.

Dbox foster + partners the tulip skyline

Dbox foster + partners the tulip skyline

Source: DBOX

Project data

Name The Tulip, London, United Kingdom
Client Bury Street Properties (Luxembourg) SARL
Architect Foster + Partners
Location Land next to 20 Bury Street, City of London
Appointment 2018
Planning Application 13 November 2018
Site Area 2,889m² (31,100sq ft)
Number of buildings two – entrance pavilion and visitor attraction
Building dimensions Height: 305.3m (1,000ft)
Diameter of concrete shaft 14.3m (47ft)
Diameter of widest floor 34.5m (113ft)
Structure High-strength concrete shaft with steel framed observation deck levels.
Parking facilities 284 bicycles, 2 disabled car spaces
Materials Concrete shaft for strength, maintenance and durability; high-performance glass: unitised and glazed; steel and aluminium framing; composite floor slabs
Sustainability Targeting BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.
Estimated construction 2020 till 2025 

Model foster tulip

Model foster tulip


Readers' comments (22)

  • April 1st is late this year?

    Sometimes I give up on this city. The UN report last week sheds light on a society which is fundamentally broken leading to deaths, a mental health crisis and joblessness.

    I know it's not Foster's responsibility to fix this, and I know a city needs fun as well as function, but things like this only symbolise the inequality and lack of concern at fixing things.

    Also, can anyone explain how a high restaurant and slides adds to our cultural offer and how being as far away as possible from the streets helps you understand the history underneath?

    Another bauble on a dying Christmas tree with its needles falling off. This won't be on site by 2020, though maybe by then the developer will have redesigned plans to something more clunky and speculative once he's got his media PR.

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  • Industry Professional

    Not to mention the fact that like the Gherkin itself it is likely to be surrounded by taller towers in time and therefore rendered useless!
    That or it will blight the development of the city by setting up more views which cannot be interrupted of the major landmarks.
    Can only assume it was a slow week in visualization and they needed something to keep them busy which might attract a few lines in the press to make it worthwhile!

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  • Firstly there are already viewing areas in various tall city buildings such as the Tower 42, the Shard and the walkie-talkie. As interesting as it may be it is not required. It would be better to refurbish and reopen the post office tower. Secondly, in terms of material and embodied carbon in an age of rapid climate change this is an extreme waste of resources. In terms of where the UK is now and the direction we are heading this is not representative and is disturbingly out of touch. It will never see the light of day. Really disappointing, as a profession we waste too much time on tripe like this and need to concentrate on effecting change quickly enough to respond to our climate, Disneyesque distractions like this are not helpful.

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  • Not so much of a tulip, more of a cotton bud.

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  • Other than the social commentary, it looks like a phallus.

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  • This looks pretty horrendous. I thought it was April fool’s day already...

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  • just to add, a tad angrily, that a building is NOT sustainable just because it's 'Targeting BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating'... it is fundamentally unnecessary and therefore is not sustainable design and will cause environmental harm. The BRE need to take a view on this type of green wash facilitated by their method of measurement.

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  • Not a phallus, that's the Gherkin. Its a Butt Plug ( not that I'd know).

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  • Leaving aside the absence of architectural quality, this building is absolutely unnecessary. Can the City of London please wake up and start pushing for investment in more meaningful architecture?

    (Also, what is it with towers shaped wider at the top than at the bottom?)

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  • Excellent commentary so far. Clearly, no-one who cares a jot about sustainability, CO2 or unnecessary energy consumption had a say in this lunatic concept. Do not despair people; mockery can have a serious effect on ugly, vainglorious self-aggrandisement - a last gasp in a (hopefully?) dying age of monstrous displays of pointless and unjustified power; not unlike Versailles. Still, agreed it won't make money and is therefore unlikely to be built, so Revolution not required quite yet?

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