London in Spring

Foster + Partners' skyline-busting London Tulip is on the path to approval

The Foster + Partners–designed Tulip observation tower would rise above the rest. (DBOX/Foster + Partners)

London’s 1,000-foot-tall Tulip tower looks like it might have an easier time receiving approval than first thought. Plans for the Foster + Partners–designed observation tower will go before London’s Planning and Transportation Committee on April 2, but before that, planning officials have released a 152-page document expressing their support for approving the project.

The tower was controversial from the beginning. The Tulip would loom over the neighboring Gherkin in Central London, both developed by Jacob J. Safra, and its distinct “concrete-stem-and-glass-bulb” design drew ridicule online. The tower’s siting would also, according to a report released by the Greater London Authority (GLA) in January, impede views of the historic Tower of London. Questions over whether the building would contain an area open and free to the public, as required by the London Plan, were also raised. The GLA’s report came on the heels of concerns submitted to the City of London shortly after the tower’s reveal, wherein the London City Airport questioned whether the rotating, Ferris wheel-esque pods on the tower’s exterior would interfere with their radar systems.

Rendering of a "stem-like" entrance

The proposed base of London’s Tulip tower, which would contain a two-story visitor’s entrance hall. (DBOX/Foster + Partners)

The report released today acknowledged these issues, but on the whole, recommended the planning and transportation committee approve the scheme.

“Virtually no major development proposal is in complete compliance with all policies,” the report reads, according to BD Online, “and in arriving at a decision it is necessary to assess all the policies and proposals in the plan and to come to a view as to whether in the light of the whole plan the proposal does or does not accord with it.”

Additionally, planning officials praised the design, stating that it was “highly unusual and unique within the UK context” and had “the potential to become an architectural icon for the City, London, and the U.K.”

Rendering of a glass pavilion

The Tulip scheme will include a two-story addition on St. Mary Axe, which will contain retail and a rooftop garden. (DBOX/Foster + Partners)

However, that doesn’t ensure that the scheme will sail through to approval, as a number of preservation groups, London mayor Sadiq Khan, and the Tulip’s prospective neighbors have spoken out against the plan. Additionally, the city’s built environment team, which is responsible for overseeing London’s public spaces, has expressed doubt that the street-level entrance would be able to handle the tens of thousands of expected annual visitors. Twelve stories of restaurants, observation decks, educational spaces, and rides would greet guests in the Tulip’s glass “bulb.”

AN will follow up on this story following the committee’s vote on April 2.

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