Tulip survives London nip

Skyline of London with Tulip, Gherkin, and (I think) other proposed towers. (Dezeen)

Rowan Moore, architecture critic of The Guardian in the U.K., writes that the proposed 1,000-foot Tulip, designed by Sir Norman Foster as a fancy tourist observation deck, should be denied planning permission by the London authorities (“The Tulip’s towering vanity must be nipped in the bud“).

Huh? I thought that Mayor Khan already did that last year. (“Mayor nips Foster’s Tulip.”) As Providence’s proposed Fane tower recently demonstrated, these ego-driven projects are like cats with their nine lives. Apparently, Foster applied for a redo, and might well overturn the mayor’s thumbs’ down. Here is Moore’s description of the proposed Tulip:

Unlike other [London] towers, the Tulip’s object is not to maximise lettable square metres but to create restaurants, bars, viewing galleries and “classrooms in the sky,” all placed in a glass bud at the top of a long concrete stalk. It might also be guessed that the project serves to feed the egos of the Safras [its financial backers] and of Lord Foster, as it would restore the pre-eminence on the skyline that the Gherkin has lost to a clutch of bulky skyscrapers around it.

Moore rejects the idea that the Tulip will revive Covid-dissipated London. The Shard, London’s tallest tower, is at 1,016 feet not much taller than the Tulip would be. But it seems to me the Tulip would be much scarier, with its bulbous top atop a slender concrete “stalk.” A confidence-builder indeed! Think of the tulip craze in 1637 Holland, the first recorded speculative bubble in history. As a building, the Tulip is a speculative bubble on top of a speculative bubble on top of – you could say – a speculative bubble.

Holland survived its crisis but London is buying into a speculative bubble far more sinister than bulbomania. Hundreds of towers have been proposed or approved in London. They are economically and ecologically unsustainable. Eventually, their risky business will catch up with them. Who knows: with Covid, maybe it already has.

My guess is that when Covid exits stage left, the popularity of a view from atop the Shard, or the Tulip if and when it is completed, will have been degraded by the hundreds of towers that have already arisen in London. There’s no telling when the unsustainability of the buildings or their views will manifest itself, but it may be sooner than later.

This Dezeen article on the Tulip has more illustrations. Frankly, if London wants to go the full folly of Dubai, it might as well.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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2 Responses to Tulip survives London nip

  1. Pingback: Tulip survives London nip - Zbout

  2. Anonymous says:

    The “Tulip”??? I’ll always think of it as The Anal Probe.


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