Foster Unveils 'The Tulip'

John Hill
20. November 2018
The Tulip, with The Shard in the distance (Visualization: Foster + Partners)

Foster + Partners has unveiled The Tulip, a "unique 305.3-meter-high visitor attraction" that would sit next to the firm's earlier 30 St. Mary Axe, aka The Gherkin.

The "nature-inspired form" is the proposal of J. Safra Group and Foster + Partners, the owner and architect, respectively, of The Gherkin. A press release from Monday describes The Tulip as "a new public cultural attraction" that would contribute to the creation of a "Culture Mile with world-class tourist facilities" in the City of London. If would contain an educational facility and viewing galleries, the latter complete with internal glass slides and gondola pod rides on the building's facade.

Renderings of the proposed tower make clear just how alien the design would be to 21st-century London, which has seen a fair share of new forms puncture the skyline in recent years. At nearly 306 meters, The Tulip would be just a few meters shorter than The Shard, designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop and completed in 2012. But The Shard — sitting south of the Thames at a remove from the cluster of towers in the City — has its observation deck at 244 meters high; The Tulip, it appears, would have its viewing galleries close to its tip.

Numbers aside, a tower specially designed as an observation deck (with educational component tacked on for good measure) is responsive to the fact that the tops of many of the newer tall buildings in the City are given over to private uses. These include the Leadenhall Building by Rogers Stirk Harbour, Salesforce Tower (formerly Heron Tower, the tallest tower in the City), and The Gherkin.

On the other hand there is Eric Parry's 1 Undershaft, which will hit 309.6 meters and have a viewing gallery and educational component at its peak whenever it's completed. (The design, with its expressed diagonal bracing, is visible to the left of The Tulip in the rendering below.) So it seems that Safra and Foster are looking to fill a void and compete with other planned towers. If all goes according to plan, The Tulip could begin construction in 2020 and be completed by 2025.

The Tulip sitting next to the Gherkin and other City of London towers (Visualization: Foster + Partners)

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