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The Tulip: a new public cultural and tourist attraction proposed for the City of London

Foster + Partners as Architects

A planning application was submitted to the City of London Corporation on 13 November 2018 for The Tulip, a new public cultural attraction which would be sited next to 30 St Mary Axe, also known as The Gherkin.

This project is proposed by J. Safra Group and Foster + Partners, owners and architects respectively of 30 St Mary Axe. 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. 

Contributing to the City’s Culture Mile

Since the turn of the Millennium, London’s skyline has matured with new high-rise buildings that reflect its growth as a global financial hub. In addition, the City of London Corporation has been driving proposals to enliven the 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.

A classroom in the sky

A key feature will be the education facility within the top of The Tulip, offering 20,000 free places per year for London’s state school children. This educational resource, provided by the J. Safra Group, will deliver national curriculum topics using innovative tools to bring to life the city’s history and dynamism, inspiring the creative young minds of tomorrow.

Unique visitor experience

The Tulip seeks to provide an unparalleled vantage point to view London from a height of around 300 metres. The viewing galleries will offer visitors an engaging experience with sky bridges, internal glass slides and gondola pod rides on the building’s façade that will appeal to people across all age groups. Visitors will benefit from interactive materials and briefings from expert guides about the history of London. Complementing the experience will be a sky bar and restaurants with 360-degree views of the city.

Contributing to London’s sustainability objectives

Completed in 2004, 30 St Mary Axe, now popularly known as The Gherkin, made a positive contribution at ground level by breathing life into its surroundings. The Tulip seeks to extend the site’s public realm further. A new pocket park is proposed alongside a two-storey pavilion offering a publicly accessible rooftop garden. Together with green walls this increases the site’s green surface area by 8.5 times, supporting the Mayor’s goal for London to be the world’s first National Park City. Public access will also be considerably improved with the removal of over half of the existing perimeter walls around The Gherkin.

The Tulip’s 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. Heating and cooling is provided by zero combustion technology while integrated photovoltaic cells generate energy on site.

Significant economic and social benefits

The Tulip and The Gherkin will bring life to the City of London at all times of the day and evening, seven days a week. This creates opportunities for a diverse range of businesses to operate out-of-office hours, bringing real economic and social benefits for the local community and for London. The Tulip will offer an outstanding venue to host cultural, educational, business and technology events.

Norman Foster, Founder and Executive Chairman, Foster + Partners said: “Continuing the pioneering design of 30 St Mary Axe, the Tulip is in the spirit of London as a progressive, forward-thinking city. It offers significant benefits to Londoners and visitors as a cultural and social landmark with unmatched educational resources for future generations.”

Jacob J. Safra said: “We are delighted to benefit from the exceptional talent of Foster + Partners in bringing to London this world-class visitor attraction. The Tulip’s elegance and soft strength complements the iconic Gherkin. We are confident in London’s role as a global city and are proud to offer its schoolchildren a state-of-the-art classroom in the sky to appreciate London’s history and dynamism.”




Bury Street Properties (Luxembourg) SARL


Foster + Partners

Location Land

adjacent to 20 Bury Street, City of London


2018 Planning


13 November 2018

Estimated Construction

2020 – 2025

Site Area

2,889m² (31,100sq ft)

Number of buildings

2, Entrance Pavilion and Visitor Attraction

Building dimensions

Height: 305.3m (1,000ft)

Diameter of concrete shaft: 14.3m (47ft)

Diameter of widest floor: 34.5m (113ft)


High-strength concrete shaft with steel

framed observation deck levels

Parking facilities

284 bicycles

2 disabled car spaces


Concrete shaft for strength, maintenance and durability

High performance glass: unitised and glazed

Steel and aluminium framing

Composite floor slabs


- Targeting BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.

- Additional 130m2 (1400sq ft) plaza space and 8.5 times green surface area: two green walls, pocket park and roof garden, supporting the Mayor’s goal for London to be the first National Park City.

- Positive impact on air quality: zero combustion, improving the Gherkin’s systems, to support the Mayor’s goal of London having the best air quality of any major world city by 2050.

- Optimised design combined with efficient systems and zero-carbon technologies give a 42% carbon saving, contributing to the Mayor’s goal of London being zero-carbon by 2050.

- Designed using circular economy principles and ‘zero waste to landfill’ operations, discouraging single-use plastics, in support of the Mayor’s move towards London as a zerowaste city.

- 48% overall water reduction, with 100% recycled water for irrigation.

- Car free, with 284 cycle parking space, equivalent to taking 28 cars off the street.

Design Features

- As a purpose-designed visitor attraction the building adds a new asset to the city. Its height and location will provide incomparable views of the London skyline and the activities within will offer guests a memorable experience

- Provides a unique new education facility for the use of local state schools with a view onto 2,000 years of London’s history.

- Increased public realm permeability improves connections to public transport, pedestrian and cycle routes.

- The new entrance pavilion enhances the existing active ground level of 30 St Mary Axe (The Gherkin) through its public roof terrace and additional retail businesses while also accommodating 284 bicycle parking spaces for staff and visitors.

- The significantly extended landscape with two green walls, a biodiverse roof garden and a pocket park including a water feature, improves the site’s ecological value.

Interesting Facts

- The building’s weight is equivalent to 80 fully loaded Airbus A380s on a footprint that is half the size of a single plane.

- Each of the three buttress ribs takes the force of 1,200 London double decker buses.

- You could pack 9 London Underground trains within one level of the concrete shaft.

- If laid end to end, the steel reinforcement bar would reach as far as Paris – 300 miles away.

Project Credits
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