What went wrong with London’s Tulip Skyscraper?

What went wrong with London's Tulip Skyscraper?
November 18, 2021

The high-tech skyscraper next to the cucumber was supposed to be a new town square for Londoners, but the government has rejected plans for its construction.

The Tulip would have been the tallest building in the City of London and the second tallest in the capital, after The Shard.

Housing Minister Michael Gove’s long decision letter describes several concerns, including disturbing the balance between cultural heritage and modern buildings, the proposed use of unwanted building materials and the potential to disrupt the view of nearby cultural heritage sites.

The 12-storey building was originally approved by the City of London Corporation, but then rejected by Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Foster & Partners development mentioned itself as a sustainable asset for the London skyline with a new education facility for use by London public schools. So what went wrong?

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Disturbing views of cultural heritage assets

A major stumbling block for The Tulip was its dominance on the London skyline.

David Nicholson RIBA IHBC, an inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for Local Communities and Local Authorities, concluded that on the walk across Tower Bridge, the tulip would appear to be moving all the way through the sky behind the White Tower, and this would be “very apparent and intrusive. for the viewer. “

He also said the open sky around the White Tower would be “severely affected” by the tulip and would upset the delicate balance between the city and the World Heritage Site.

An appeal argued that the public benefits of the scheme demonstrably outweigh any specific alleged inheritance damage. However, the Foreign Minister decided that the inheritance damage would not be offset by the public benefits of the proposal.

It was decided that there would be further damage to the surroundings of other designated cultural heritage assets, in particular the church of St. Botolph without Aldgate, 10 Trinity Square and Trinity House

Unsustainable use of concrete

Despite the project aiming at a BREEAM assessment of outstanding, the decision letter states that the comprehensive measures that would be taken to minimize carbon emissions during construction would not offset the very unsustainable concept of using large amounts of reinforced concrete for foundations and elevator shaft.

Foster & Partners, a member of the Low Carbon Concrete Group in the Green Construction Board, argued that the choice of material was a key part of the design process and that concrete would reduce the built-in energy by 31 percent compared to steel.


Image: a photograph that gives a bird’s eye view of the Tulip and the Cucumber

“A lift shaft with a bulge”

The CEO of Historic England called the attraction “an elevator shaft with a bulge” in 2019, citing its impact on the Tower of London

Historic England has welcomed the rejection decision, saying it has long been of the view that The Tulip would be visually intrusive and very incongruent from central views of the Tower, detracting from the experience of visiting the site for millions of tourists and Londoners.

It is also their view that it would harm the importance of the Tower of London as a World Heritage Site, and therefore the proposals were contrary to local and national planning policies.


What’s next?

Developer Bury Street Properties told The Guardian newspaper: “We are disappointed with the UK Government’s decision to deny Tulip a building permit.

“In our view, this project represented a unique opportunity to reaffirm London’s world-leading reputation in architecture, culture, education and tourism.”

Judith Dupré, author of Skyscrapers, A History of the World’s Most Extraordinary Buildings, even questioned the future of skyscrapers in a recent BBC article. She says that height and design restrictions on new skyscrapers like The Tulip may mean that their golden age is over:

“Skyscrapers convey power, economic power and technical prowess – qualities that are irresistible to nation-builders.

“The pandemic has forced more expansive thinking about tall buildings and the people who work in them, and requires flexibility, adaptability, access to nature and towers that save more and consume less.”

Image: a photograph of the exterior of the Tulip. Image credit: Tulipanen

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published November 18, 2021


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