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Fosters’ ‘incongruous’ Tulip tower breaches London plan, say GLA planners

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The London Mayor’s planning team has said it has ’significant concerns’ about the design of Foster + Partners’ proposed 305m-tall Tulip tourist tower 

The 15-page document prepared by the Greater London Authority (GLA) after the scheme’s submission in November, points to potential breaches of the London Plan and claims the structure would harm protected views of the Tower of London.

Warning that the ’significant height’ of the building close to the Gherkin ’appeared unjustified’, the GLA team raised concerns about how the ’highly distinctive design approach [stepped] away from the predominantly faceted form of the surrounding cluster’.

The report goes on: ’The introduction of significant expanse of solid and inactive building frontage with only the very upper parts being animated by glazed projecting oval sections, and the proposed ‘gondola’ features would appear incongruous in the existing crystalline context of the cluster and would draw significant attention to the building’s form and presence.

’In line with the heritage concerns […] this design approach is questioned.’

The damning report added that the current proposals would not comply with the guidelines in the London Plan, which demand free access to public areas in tall buildings.

It understood most visitors to the attraction, which is backed by banker giants the J Safra Group and owner of the neighbouring 30 St Mary Axe tower, would be charged for entry.

The GLA admitted the principle of a visitor attraction within the City of London would ‘complement the strategic functions’ of the Central Activities Zone – the vibrant centre of the capital.

However, the mayor’s planners complained about the proposal’s transport strategy, claiming the tower would ’result in a poor quality, unwelcoming and unnecessarily confined pedestrian environment’ and failed to reflect the Healthy Streets approach within the draft London Plan.

The GLA is not the first organisation to make known their worries about the super-tall Foster proposal next to 20 Bury Street.

In December Historic Royal Palaces joined Historic England in objecting to the tower, saying it would be ’extremely damaging’ to the setting of the Tower of London

Historic England had previously stated that the attraction would create an unwanted ‘vertical cliff edge’ to the so-called Eastern Cluster of skyscrapers.

The application has already received numerous objections from the public.

Responding to the news, a spokesperson for Foster + Partners said: ’We are pleased to see that the mayor of london considers the use of a visitor attraction as complementing the City.

‘We welcome the detailed technical comments by GLA officers and, as part of the ongoing planning process, we will continue to work closely with the City of London Corporation and the GLA to resolve those matters raised and to improve the package of public benefits associated with the Tulip.’

Earlier this month the team behind the project published the results of an online survey claiming widespread public support for the plans. The poll of 1,011 Londoners, run between 13 and 18 December, indicated that two thirds (65 per cent) believed the skyscraper would be ‘an attractive addition to the London skyline’.

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

The project could begin on site as early as 2020 and, if approved by the City of London, is scheduled for completion in 2025.


Project data

Name The Tulip, City London
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
Number of buildings two – entrance pavilion and visitor attraction
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, two disability car spaces
Sustainability Targeting BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.
Estimated construction 2020-2025 

Model foster tulip

Model foster tulip

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