Foster + Partners, London, UK, London buildings, The Tulip, Tulip building
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Lebanese banker wins approval to build Foster + Partners-designed Tulip tower in London

The City of London’s governing body has approved plans for the city's second-tallest building, a 305m-high viewing tower, dubbed the 'Tulip'.

The building, designed by Foster + Partners for the Lebanese Brazalian billionaire Joseph Safra – who also owns London’s famous Gherkin building – has stirred up controversy.

According to Arabian Business, the Tulip has faced 46 formal objections and an unprecedented intervention by Duncan Wilson, the CEO of Historic England.

The building – described by Wilson as ‘a lift shaft with a bulge on top’ – “will cause permanent and irreversible damage to the setting of the Tower of London, and in turn, the image and identity of the capital,” he said.

The Tulip has also faced opposition from Historic Royal Palaces, which called the scheme “a fundamental and irreversible mistake” that would seriously harm views of the Tower of London, a Unesco world heritage site.

The city’s own public realm department in February said that the old roads surrounding the site at 20 Bury Street could not handle an influx of 1.2 million visitors a year.

Nonetheless, the landmark was approved after a ‘robust’ debate by the City of London Corporation’s planning committee, said Chris Hayward, the chairman.

The tower will feature a multi-deck glass viewing platform with a bar and restaurant, rotating pods on its exterior, and an education centre for up to 20,000 children a year. Construction is scheduled to start next year and end by 2025.

Economic impact

A spokesperson for The Tulip said: “As part of the planning application process, The Tulip submitted an Economic Impact Assessment by Deloitte, which estimated that The Tulip would offer economic benefits to London of nearly £1 billion in total monetised value by 2045 and 600 additional permanent full time jobs during 20 years of operations.”

According to an independent representative poll of Londoners, conducted by ComRes, two thirds of London adults (65 percent) think that The Tulip would be an attractive addition to the London skyline, while 69 percent believe that the proposed development would have a positive impact on ‘the city’s attractiveness as a visitor and cultural destination’.

The Tulip spokesperson added: “During the planning application process, our team engaged with a significant number of local stakeholders including heritage bodies, schools, businesses and residents in the city and neighbouring boroughs.

"These discussions, together with the views of the planning officers, have allowed us to tailor the proposal to meet their needs and concerns."

The proposal will now be subject to review by the Mayor of London, who has 14 days to consider the city’s positive decision in the wider context of London’s role as a leading global capital.