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Norman Foster’s New London Skyscraper: Tulip or Q-tip?

Twitter users have been quick to think of alternative nicknames, including ‘the cotton bud’ and ‘the tadpole’

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Designs for ‘The Tulip’, 2018. Courtesy: Foster + Partners

Designs for ‘The Tulip’, 2018. Courtesy: Foster + Partners

Plans for a 305.3-metre-high skyscraper named ‘The Tulip’ have been submitted to the City of London Corporation by architects Foster + Partners. If approved, the observation tower would become the tallest structure in the City, standing 50cm higher than 1 Undershaft, another skyscraper proposed in the Square Mile, but around five metres short of The Shard, the UK’s tallest building.

Designed by Norman Foster, the architect behind the nearby Gherkin, the plans submitted on behalf of the Safra Group, owned by Brazilian billionaire banker Jacob J. Safra, describe a concrete stalk with a twelve-storey glass bubble perched on top. Inside there will be bars, restaurants and an education centre, which will offer 20,000 places per year to children attending London’s state schools to ‘bring to life the city’s history and dynamism’.

Though the initial brief was to convert the top of the Gherkin into a visitor attraction, space restrictions led Foster + Partners to come up with a stand-alone proposal, the architecture firm’s website promising: ‘the viewing galleries will offer visitors an engaging experience with sky bridges, internal glass slides and gondola pod rides on the building’s façade’.

While Jacob J. Safra, the billionaire owner of ‘The Tulip’s’ big brother, The Gherkin, complimented the building’s ‘elegance and soft strength’, the public reaction to the building has been more metaphorical. Many have taken to Twitter to suggest alternative nicknames. One user dubbed the building the ‘cotton bud’ while other suggestions included the ‘asparagus spear’, ‘the tadpole’ and ‘the sperm’. Oliver Wainwright, The Guardian’s architecture and design critic compared the building to ‘a cocktail cornichon raised aloft on its own Nelson’s Column’ and a ‘Mini-Me version of the Gherkin’.

Construction on the skyscraper could begin as early as 2020, while the opening date is estimated for 2025.

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