The Tulip’s towering egoism needs to be nipped in the bud | Rowan Moore

The Tulip is a proposed 305-metre high “cultural and tourist attraction” in the City of London. Designed by Foster and Partners for J Safra Group, it would stand five metres from the Gherkin, also Foster-designed and Safra-owned.

Unlike other City towers the Tulip’s object is not to maximise lettable square metres but to create restaurants, bars, viewing galleries and “classrooms in the sky”, all placed in a glass bud at the top of a long concrete stalk. It might also be guessed that the project serves to feed the egos of the Safras and of Lord Foster, as it would restore the pre-eminence on the skyline that the Gherkin has lost to a clutch of bulky skyscrapers around it.

A public inquiry is now being conducted in order to recommend whether the Tulip should be given planning permission, which means that all sorts of ingenious arguments are being produced for and against it.

Among them is the well-worn and rarely proven theory, ever-popular among promoters of large shiny objects, that it will be a magical booster of confidence in the Covid-battered City. Since its outdated futurism resembles nothing more than the fantasies of a third world dictator, and as it is a lesser version of the 356-metre Colombo Lotus tower in Sri Lanka, it comes across mostly as an unconvincing act of attention-seeking.

It might also be a bigger statement of confidence in London if Bury Street Properties, the company through which the Safras are funding the Tulip’s site, weren’t registered in Luxemburg.


Good news for sports fans in England: crowds of up to 4,000 are now permitted in tier 1. Less good news: only Cornwall, the Scilly Isles and the Isle of Wight are in tier 1, which to the best of my knowledge don’t often draw these kinds of numbers to their sporting contests. There’s the Cowes regatta, but that’s not until August. So it’s time for Liskeard Athletic FC and Brading Town FC to develop the fan bases they deserve.

Michigan’s new hero

For US election nerds like me, Trump’s reluctance to concede is the gift that keeps on giving. It reached almost unbearable levels of excitement last Monday, when you could livestream the 3½-hour meeting of the Michigan board of state canvassers, held in some generic bureaucratic room – suspended ceiling, fluorescent lights, air-conditioning ducts, a few photos of Michigan’s plains and beaches struggling to cheer the place up. Participants wore masks and were separated by screens. Hundreds of concerned citizens queued up to express themselves via Zoom. The purpose of the meeting was to certify Joe Biden’s clear victory in the state.

It was a pivotal moment in history, it being only a small exaggeration to say that the future of democracy was at stake. Trump’s modus operandi, ever since he was a young dealmaker in New York property, has been to bully and induce mid-level officials to give him seemingly impermissible and impossible favours. Such has been his clear intent since the election and, unlikely as his coup attempt was, his method has worked in the past.

But then a previously unknown hero, the Republican lawyer and vice-chair of the board, Aaron Van Langevelde, stepped up and did his duty, which was to vote for certification, which halted whatever momentum there might have been for his and other swing states to bend to the president’s pressure.

It was like watching the Battle of Thermopylae in real time. Almost.

• Rowan Moore is the Observer’s architecture critic

The Guardian

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