Foster + Partners has submitted plans for a 305m-tall visitor attraction shaped like a giant tulip next to the Gherkin in the City of London

The 2,889m² project is being backed by billionaire banker Jacob J Safra, owner of the neighbouring 30 St Mary Axe tower, and work could begin on site as early as 2020.

According to the practice, the scheme will feature glazed observation levels supported by a huge concrete shaft to create ‘a new state-of-the-art cultural and educational resource for Londoners and tourists’.

There are also plans internally for glass slides and gondola pod rides.

The tower, dubbed The Tulip, would become the tallest building in the City, edging above Eric Parry’s proposed 1 Undershaft, which has an estimated completed height of 304m. However, it would still be slightly shorter than Renzo Piano’s Shard skyscraper (306m) across the river.

An announcement from the practice said: ’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.’

Norman Foster, 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.’

As well as the main tower, the planning application also inculdes a new entrance pavilion with public roof terrace, and provision for 284 bicycle parking spaces for staff and visitors.

The visitor attraction will offer free entry to 20,000 London state school children a year.

Jacob J Safra, whose Bury Street Properties company is funding the project, added: ’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 school children a state-of-the-art classroom in the sky to appreciate London’s history and dynamism.’

Foster + Partners said the building’s eventual weight would be ‘equivalent to 80 fully loaded Airbus A380s on a footprint that is half the size of a single plane’.

The project is scheduled for completion in 2025.

Architects Journal