A tall tulip-shaped tower planned to be planted next to the Gherkin as a viewing platform has been blocked by the Mayor of London.
Although the City of London granted approval to the highly controversial design, the Mayor of London called in the application due to its London-wide implications.
If it had been built — then the tall concrete tower would have taken visitors up to a steel and glass bulb at the top with viewing floors, an education centre, and a roof top bar.
Such a dramatic shaped building was always going to polarise opinion, but it also pushed the limits of planning consent, which were admittedly aimed at buildings with more conventional use – such as offices and flats.
As the tower lacked either, it had hoped to evade some of the public amenity requirements on office blocks in the area, and although the developer, who also owns the Gherkin next door made some changes, they weren’t sufficient to please the Mayor of London.
The mayor said that the proposed development “of a tall visitor attraction, by virtue of its height, form, design and appearance would not constitute the very highest quality of design required for a tall building in this location”.
There were concerns that the impact on views from around the city with The Tulip in the background was damaging and that the benefits it would bring were too few to offset the impact.
In particular, the offer of free access to schoolchildren did not offset the planning requirement that applies to other office blocks to offer free access to anyone to a viewing gallery near to the top of their buildings.
A particularly interesting comment was the report’s conclusion of the potential unintended consequence of this design is to create the appearance of a surveillance tower looking over London, particularly in views from Whitechapel Road.
It is still possible for the developer to appeal, but they would struggle to overcome the issues raised in the report without a fundamental rethink of the entire building.
It’s an interesting idea and the design is not entirely without some appeal, but the location was entirely wrong.
The big question remains unanswered though as to how on earth a dedicated tower that relied solely on visitor revenues could have been viable considering how many alternative viewing gallery options there will be in London by the time it would have been built.