London mayor Sadiq Khan has today dismissed plans for the so-called “Tulip Tower” designed by Foster + Partners, describing the building as “unwelcoming” and “poorly designed.”

The news signals a U-turn by authorities who had so far given the project the green light through planning, with the full go-ahead having been granted on April 2. Chris Hayward, chairman of the City of London planning committee had then called the tower a “truly unique visitor attraction.”

“One of my key objectives … has been to enable the continued transformation of the City of London into a place which welcomes members of the public on weekends as during the week,” he added.

Despite this, the Tulip had come up against ardent opposition. “This building, a lift shaft with a bulge on top, would damage the very thing its developers claim they will deliver – tourism and views of London’s extraordinary heritage,” Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England told The Guardian in April. “The setting of the Tower of London, a symbol of the city not just to millions of Londoners but to the whole world and one of our most visited places, will be harmed. It has already been damaged by the Walkie Talkie and it would be a great shame if that mistake was repeated.”

An overhead aerial rendering of The Tulip and the Gherkin.

An overhead aerial rendering of The Tulip and the Gherkin. (DBOX/Foster + Partners)

Furthermore, criticism was also aimed at Foster + Partners for the tower in the wake of the firm officially declaring a climate emergency (along with more than 500 practices.) “What better statement of action could there be than if Foster + Partners withdrew its involvement from that most grotesque fuck-you to a sustainable future, The Tulip?” argued Will Jennings in the Architects’ Journal.

Mayor Khan appears to have headed these warnings, and today a mayoral spokesperson issued the following statement:

“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.”

If built as designed, the Tulip was set to be 984 feet tall and boast an observation deck offering visitors 360-degree views of London. Its steel-framed bubble-like tip would have also comprised a gondola system, with patrons riding glass pods across the facade akin to a Ferris wheel.

In response to this article’s original publication, a representative for the Tulip’s project team reached out with the following comment:

“The Tulip Project team 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.”

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