Skip to main content

The Lasting Impact of the Tulip Tower on Modern Architecture

The plan for a tulip-shaped tower rising above the London skyline was met with mixed responses. Some called it bulbous while others called it beautiful.


Named “The Tulip” due to its flower-like shape, this proposed building would have been the tallest observation tower in London. Although building planning permissions were rejected by London mayor Sadiq Khan in July 2019, the structure still presents a variety of innovative architectural features that could signal the future of large-scale, metropolitan structures.


Much of the opposition stemmed from the placement and size of the structure which many believed could have obstructed city views. Leadership from the Historic England commission voiced concern over the Tulip Tower detracting from the visibility of London historical sites.

An article from the Guardian explains another potential downside of the tower, stating:

"Construction on the 305-metre (1,000ft) tower must not go ahead until an assessment has been carried out into its potential impact on radar systems at the airport six miles to the east, officials told the authority considering whether to grant planning permission."

Proposed features included a sky bar, viewing gallery, sky bridges, classrooms, restaurants, and even a rooftop garden. Read on to learn more about this polarizing structure and how ideas put forth in its plan could shape the future of architecture.


Facts about The Tulip

The planning application for the Tulip was submitted on November 13, 2018 with construction estimated for 2020-2025. The proposed site area composed of  2,889m² (31,100sq ft) and two buildings: the Entrance Pavilion and Visitor Attraction. At a height of 303.5 m (1,000ft) the structure would have been the second tallest building in London. 

The proposal states that the structure would have consisted of a high-strength concrete shaft with steel framed observation deck levels, and the materials used would have been concrete shafts for strength, high-performance glass that has been unitised and glazed, steel and aluminum framing, and composite floor slabs.

The proposed weight of the building was equivalent to 80 fully-loaded Airbus A380s but with a footprint that would be half the size of a single plane. In addition, if laid end to end, the steel reinforcement bar would have reached as far as Paris, which is 300 miles away.



Culture Center

Over the past two decades, infrastructure has continued to grow across London’s skyline. According to the Tulip’s press release, “the city of London Corporation has been driving proposals to enliven to Square Mile by creating a Culture Mile with world-class tourist facilities. The proposal for a unique 305.3-metre-high visitor attraction reflects a desire to build public engagement within the City and enhance The Gherkin’s public offering. The Tulip promises wide cultural and economic benefits with a diverse programme of events.”


Education Facility

At the top of the Tulip, there would have been 20,000 free spaces for state school children. It was planned to hold national curriculums in these rooms using innovative tools to bring to life the city’s history.



Over the last 20-30 years, London’s buildings have increasingly become more and more green, and this tower is no exception. Targeting a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating, the Tulip would have had a pocket park next to the two-story pavilion with access to a rooftop garden. Including the green walls, the plan would have increased the site’s green surface area by 8.5 times to help support the Mayor’s 2050 initiative for London to be the world’s first National Park City. The optimised design combined with efficient systems and zero carbon technologies would have provided a 42% carbon savings, and a 48% overall water reduction, with 100% recycled water for irrigation.


Vantage Point View

At around 300 meters, the Tulip would have provided a vantage point view unlike any other. Viewing galleries were planned to offer visitors the option to experience the sky bridges, in addition to internal glass slides and gondola rides.


Building an Improved Economy

The Tulip plan offered opportunities for businesses to operate outside of working hours as a way to increase social and economic benefits for the community. The Tulip was intended to host many tech, cultural, business, and educational events and help promote economic growth to the London area.

It was a radical proposition that naturally raised a few eyebrows. But, could the Tulip have been beneficial to London’s socio-economic growth and overall future? What are your thoughts on the Tulip Tower? Do you think London should have gone ahead with this project or should they pursue something similar in the future? Comment below and let us know!