Back in Bloom

Developer behind Foster + Partners’ London Tulip tower files appeal

The previously rejected proposal for The Tulip in London could come back to life. (DBOX/Foster + Partners)

The team behind Foster + PartnersTulip tower wants to put the project back on the drawing board after the proposal was blocked last summer by London Mayor Sadiq Kahn. Building Design reported that the tower’s developer, billionaire Jacob J. Safra, recently filed paperwork with the City of London Corporation to revitalize the project just three days before the six-month appeal window was set to expire. 

Designed for a Central London lot next to the Gherkin (which was also backed by Safra’s company, J. Safra Group), the tulip-shaped observation skyscraper would stand 1,000 feet tall with only 12 stories spread across a thin, concrete support stem and a bulbous glass topper. Since the first visuals of the building emerged in November 2018, critics have claimed that if built, the structure has the potential to block views of the Tower of London, a world heritage site.

Rendering of glass pods on a tower's facade

Thrill-seekers could ride in glass pods around the building’s exterior. (DBOX/Foster + Partners)

Khan used his veto power to stop London’s Planning and Transportation Committee from moving forward with the project, despite the fact that the agency had already approved the educational center and external gondola design as a means to bring visitors and public school children to the sky-high space. Khan said the overall design wasn’t sufficient, claiming it wasn’t a piece of “world-class architecture that would be required to justify its prominence.” Increased congestion was also a major concern. 

Both Historic England, the London City Airport, and The Greater London Authority (GLA) agreed with Khan’s sentiment. GLA published a 15-page report in early 2019 detailing why the Tulip scheme failed to comply with the London Plan, a framework meant to help achieve economic and sustainable development without sacrificing the city’s historic character. 

Now that the appeals process has launched, Tulip fans can expect an inquiry to take place in the near future. Locals have already speculated that the appeal could reach the highest office in British Parliament and that the Robert Jenrick, the current Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, could make the final decision.  

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