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Mayor rejects ‘unwelcoming, poorly designed’ Tulip


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.’


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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