The skyline of London’s financial district abounds with architectural eccentricities of a culinary kind, including the Gherkin and the Cheesegrater. Soon, that lineup may include a svelte stem and floral observation tower, nicknamed “The Tulip.”
City officials have lavished praise on the Foster + Partners building, saying that it has “the potential to become an architectural icon” in its 152-page report on the proposed tourist attraction. The 1,000-foot-tall skyscraper would feature a multi-deck glass viewing platform with internal slides and a set of rotating gondolas on the exterior, which public planners have described as “highly unusual.”
A key feature of the 20 Bury Street proposed building will be its education facilities, which architects say will offer 20,000 free opportunities per year for London’s state school children from ages 5–16 to access national curriculum topics. (One of the Tulip’s more fanciful renderings includes a woman using a floating holographic projection to teach schoolchildren about the Tower of London.) The skyscraper will also include a host of dining and hospitality options for visitors.
London planners have put the Tulip on track to receive official permission, despite objections made by the city’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who signed onto a January letter published by the Greater London Authority (GLA) that said the skyscraper violated the London Plan. An additional report warned that the GLA had “significant concerns with the design approach” and that “the height appears unjustified,” especially considering that “the proposal fails to provide free to enter publicly accessible viewing areas.”
By comparison, authors of the more recent planning report have noted that “virtually no major development proposal is in complete compliance with all [London Plan] policies” and that its aesthetic creativity and technical innovation “could continue this tradition of accommodating unconventional and eye-catching landmarks on the skyline.”
Alongside its architects, the Tulip proposal is supported by Joseph Safra, the world’s richest banker according to Forbes. In 2014, the Brazilian billionaire’s business group purchased the Gherkin for a reported £726 million (~$960 million), promising to make it “even better and more desirable.”
“The Tulip’s elegance and soft strength complements the iconic Gherkin,” Safra said in a statement on the building’s website. “We are confident in London’s role as a global city and are proud to offer its schoolchildren a state-of-the-art classroom in the sky to appreciate London’s history and dynamism.”
According to Foster + Partners, the building’s weight is equivalent to 80 fully loaded Airbus A380s on a footprint the size of a single plane. If laid end-to-end, the steel reinforcement bar for the skyscraper would stretch to Paris, about 300 miles from London.
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