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Mayor rejects ‘unwelcoming, poorly designed’ Tulip

  • 22 Comments

London mayor Sadiq Khan has refused Foster + Partners’ Tulip tower saying the 304m-tall tourist attraction is ‘of insufficient quality’ and would harm the city’s skyline

Overturning the City of London’s recent approval for the proposed skyscraper next to The Gherkin, Khan said he had a number of major worries about the project including about its design (see report attached).

The report criticised the structure for being ’a vertical solid shaft’ that ended abruptly and that did not ’represent world class architecture’. The mayor was particularly dismissive of the spaces around its base

A spokesperson said: ‘The mayor has a number of serious concerns with this application and, having studied it in detail, has refused permission for a scheme that he believes would result in very limited public benefit.

‘In particular, he believes that the design is of insufficient quality for such a prominent location, and that the tower would result in harm to London’s skyline and impact views of the nearby Tower of London World Heritage Site.

‘The proposals would also result in an unwelcoming, poorly designed public space at street level.’

His comments about the scheme at 20 Bury Street in London’s Square Mile, echo those from Historic England and Historic Royal Palaces which had heavily opposed the proposal.

Both had objected to its impact on the views of the Tower of London, as did the Greater London Authority which said it had ‘significant concerns’ about its design.

Despite significant opposition, in April the City of London’s planning and transportation committee voted 18 votes to seven in favour of the project.

In addition to its report on the Tulip, the GLA has also published a critical report from its own London Review Panel, drawn from the Mayor’s Design Advocates.

The report, dated 16 April 2019, argues that the scheme did not represent ’world-class architecture’ describing the tower shaft as a ‘mute’ architectural element with viewing platforms designed to maximise views out.

The panel, which included architect Adam Khan and housing expert Claire Bennie, said a ’potentially unintended consequence’ of the Tulip’s design is that it created ’the appearance of a surveillance tower’.

The reviewers also said that a building of this size and impact should be ‘carbon neutral’, and that the education strategy should be more ambitious.

It concluded: ’The panel is unable to support The Tulip because it does not think it represents world-class architecture, it lacks sufficient quality and quantity of public open space, and its social and environmental sustainability do not match the ambition of its height and impact on London’s skyline.’

It is unknown whether the scheme’s developer, banking giant the J Safra Group which owns the neighbouring Gherkin, will appeal against the mayor’s decision.

However a spokesperson for the Tulip Project team said: ’[We] are disappointed by The Mayor of London’s decision to direct refusal of planning permission, particularly as The Tulip will generate immediate and longer-term socio-economic benefits to London and the UK as a whole.

’We will now take time to consider potential next steps for The Tulip Project.’

  • 22 Comments

Readers' comments (22)

  • Well done Sadiq. What annoyed me most about this gaudy and vacuous oligarch vanity project was its claim to be BREEAM excellent - claiming generating like a gigaton of carbon emissions for ??? function is OK because you've done a tick box sustainability exercise.

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  • Thank you Mr Mayor for at least this prompt rational decision

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  • Look at some of the stuff the mayor has recently approved before you take his latest pronouncement seriously. Another sign that London is hitting the miserablist buffers.

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  • Paul, nobody replying is miserable. We are happy.

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  • Thank you Sadiq. There are still signs of sanity and resposiblity in the political system--- but for how much longer?

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  • As Paul Finch rightly points out, this is a suspiciously political and not an urban design vote based on sound aesthetic and other applicable principals (which Paul notes the mayor has proven by previous example that "he", ie his advisors, haven't got). The historicist lobby would always rather see London preserved in aspic, and not attractive for the future, which to some extent has a valuable input into the debate. Fortunately town planning control only appeared as late as 1948 or they would be campaigning for it to remain as 3 mud huts on a bridge "because anything bigger would be out of scale". I detect shallow virtue signalling by the climate change snowflakes.
    Rant deflection shields deployed!

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  • Chris Roche

    Arguably the correct decision, however I hope it is not the end of the project, or perhaps more importantly another manifestation of the brexit zeitgeist. Fosters are clearly one of the greatest architects of our age, and both they, and their client, need encouragement to produce a world class product both for residents and visitors to London.

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  • The most compelling reason for turning this down is the poor design of public space at pedestrian level. That mistake is quite shocking but not uncommon with architects who retain the object fetish they were probably taught in architecture schools.

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  • For D Walters: in this case 'the object fetish' could have resulted in the creation of a thing symbolising the Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher - a notorious symbol of our times.

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  • Sorry Paul and friends, for all sorts of reasons, we don’t need another Foster’s Penis?! We do need more small green spaces with some cover for lunch and deals?

    The Post Office Tower, if refurbished, provides a great viewing gallery, at a suitable distance from our glassy CBD? Do that?!

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  • It's not a Tulip
    It's a Q-Tip

    It's also off the scale that starts with ugly and ends with hideous.

    Its single virtue would be to pull the eye away for a second or two from the surrounding cluster of monstrosities which together so eloquently express the triumphant chaos of international speculative finance, and the murder of the civic realm....

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  • MacKenzie Architects

    If we are just going to give someone the arbitrary power to reject non-governmental developments, it will of course bite us in the ass.
    People haven't realised that we have now got a politically-enervated population. In the past, nobody (in the general sense) could be bothered stating their opinion on anything, but referenda and climate-change has raised the temperature of everything.

    Foster's design is very poor and meaningless, but apart from the fact that there is no space on the ground to support it, why should it be blocked, and on what terms could you argue the point?

    I think the Architectural world would do well to demand Big Government well out of such minor things, and stick to proper big issues like energy, transportation, employment, foreign policy. By all means criticise a crap design, in any of its aspects (location, massing, brief, cost, style, engineering, aesthetic) but don't argue on propaganda or subjective grounds.
    If the building fails as a tourist attraction, maybe some lucky financial billionaire will convert it to Resi as his (her) London pad. (can they do that without planning permission?)

    Would be interesting to see how objective the debate was. Do they publish Minutes?

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  • For once I have to disagree with Paul Finch. It is not 'miserablist' to find rampant hypocrisy between this pointless object (three different gondola rides wandering up and down while facing the same view?!) and the claimed credentials of its designer in caring about the environment. A steely-eyed review of what 'sustainability' actually means is long overdue.

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  • There are plenty of tall buildings to view London from without creating another for no reason other than vanity. The square mile is now a collection of miss matched buildings the scale and mass mostly dictated by the out of date London View Management Framework which should be scraped.


    I strongly agree with David Farmery that the Post Office tower already exists and could be re purposed to return it to world class iconic tourist attraction i once was.

    This decision is the right one, along with the scrapping of the garden bridge. Anyone who wants to use tens of thousands of tons of concrete to make a park over a river when you can make a park next to the river on existing ground is deluded. Same goes for a stick thin tower with a knob on top.

    London is not hitting the 'miserabilist' buffers as Paul Finch suggests, it needs to make mature, sustainable, future proof decisions. its not Disney World!


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  • Garden Bridge scrapped by a mayor who supported it before he was elected; Rotherhithe pedestrian/cyclist bridge scrapped before it even started; two stations scrapped at Old Oak Park; no plans for a replacement west of the failing Hammersmith Bridge. BUT mayoral support for vast ungainly Calatrava development at Greenwich Peninsula, and the gigantic hotel development on the Cromwell Road, opposed by all locals and rejected by the local planning authority, whose decision has now been overturned. That is the context for the Tulip decision. It is not a happy one. Not to mention the failing housing policy . . .

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  • Frances Maria

    This is one of the most ridiculous buildings I have ever seen and it is good that it has been rejected. It does not serve a useful purpose, and is a vanity project which cannot be justified. Views of London can already be enjoyed from the Shard and other buildings, so yet another viewing platform simply isn't necessary.

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  • Hooray - the Fatuous Days are over!

    This is a kind of 'reverse Garden Bridge' move, by which Sadiq signals he is serious about sorting out our city rather than waving through every waif of self-referential nonsense. The reasons - rubbish at ground, impact on views, serves no real purpose or public good, sustainability - could all be applied to many of the tall buildings Sadiq has waved through, but we should rejoice at his Damascene conversion, not complain that he didn't convert earlier.

    But why is Paul Finch so grumpy? Is his obsessive moaning for 'fun' a kind of reverse virtue signalling??

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  • Phew... amongst the rest of it, the rotating pods made that look like an April fools joke.

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  • Belly good - well done!

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  • Paulie Fynchy has become a Marie Antoinette inspired Sopranos’ character, forever calling for ‘fun’ in a let them eat cake (and be fracked) and have circuses fashion. When what they need is bread and happiness for the greatest number through genuine public works and social housing.

    This was a farcical project and it is difficult to know where to start in terms of its undesirability, but the rotating pods were certainly one of its more ridiculous aspects. What exactly was the function enhancement achieved by the rotation?!

    We are a few short decades away from human extinction, let’s go out with some dignity and grace, rather than confirming our stupidity to the advanced alien archaeologists who eventually unearth the remains of our failed civilisation.

    The Tulip would be as bewildering as Easter Island to them. Along the lines of, at a time of existential crisis they began to waste resources building symbolic ‘rocket ships’ as icons to worship, and it was made of flammable cladding to sacrifice the 21st century whicker men in?!

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  • This was nothing but a vanity project for Foster + Partners to ensure that his iconic Gherkin would not be lost and forgotten amongst the emerging City skyline - disappointing in a way as the Gherkin will remain one of the best examples of British architecture in London for centuries. The Tulip proposal looked nothing more than an awkward sex toy or ear bud cleaner. Not even the use of the building particularly benefited Londoners. Strange place to send your children to school... Thank you Sadiq for standing up for the views of many respectable architects and designers whom oppose this project.

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  • Sadiq who?

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