Gherkin owners plan 300-metre viewing platform

Tulip 2

The owners of the London skyscraper nicknamed The Gherkin, and the architects who designed it, want to build an adjacent structure that they say would be a “unique 305.3-metre-high visitor attraction”.

A planning application for The Tulip was submitted on 13 November by J. Safra Group, who would be the owners, and internationally renowned architects Foster and Partners. “Deriving its name from its nature-inspired form, The Tulip would enhance The Gherkin, one of London’s most cherished and recognisable buildings, and offer a new state-of-the-art cultural and educational resource for Londoners and tourists,” the companies said in a press release.

It would include “an unparalleled vantage point to view London from a height of around 300 metres”. The viewing platform at nearby skyscraper The Shard, currently London’s highest, is at a mere 244 metres.

An educational facility at the top of the building would “deliver national curriculum topics using innovative tools to bring to life the city’s history and dynamism”. There would be 20,000 free places for state school children, the press release said.

The cultural offerings would help to enliven London’s financial district, according to the companies, bringing economic and social benefits for the community. They said the Tulip would contribute to the Culture Mile, an initiative to put “contemporary culture in the ancient heart of London’s working capital, inspiring visitors to wander winding medieval streets and marvel at architectural wonders”. The Culture Mile is being backed by the local government authority and other cultural organisations including the London Symphony Orchestra and the Museum of London.

The companies sought to play up the building’s green credentials, saying that a “pocket park”, publicly accessible rooftop garden and “green walls” would increase the site’s green surface area by 8.5 times. Furthermore, its “soft bud-like form and minimal building footprint reflects its reduced resource use, with high performance glass and optimised building systems reducing its energy consumption”.

They did not specify what the building’s environmental footprint would be, but did say its weight would be “equivalent to 80 fully loaded Airbus A380s on a footprint that is half the size of a single plane”.

Responding to the news, some people on social media mocked the proposed design, with its long, narrow shaft and bulbous tip. Several questioned whether the nickname The Tulip would take a firm hold, proposing that alternative names might prove stickier.

If planning permission is granted, the companies expect construction to begin in 2020 and be complete by 2025.

Words: Craig Nicholson
Photo: Foster and Partners

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