Record 541 new skyscrapers planned for London

The Tulip: At 1,000ft, it will be the second-tallest building in Britain (3ft lower than the Shard).

Britain’s newest high-rise gets approval, sparking a war of words. Some think these superstructures are an abomination. Others find them breathtaking: “the point where art and the city meet”.

London’s skyscrapers are known for two things: strange shapes and silly nicknames. There is the Gherkin, the Cheese Grater, the Shard and the Walkie-Talkie. Now, a new tower is on its way: the Tulip.

The 305m tower is not for offices — it is purely a tourist attraction. The large glass bulb will be a viewing platform, with a restaurant and an education centre.

The plans were approved by the City of London’s planning committee this week. Developers are hoping to complete it by 2025. It will be the second-tallest building in Britain.

But not everyone is pleased. Many have complained that it will ruin the view of the Tower of London. Others say that London does not need more viewing platforms, or that the design is simply ugly.

Mayor Sadiq Khan will have two weeks to decide whether to overrule the decision.

The Tulip has grabbed headlines, but the debate over London’s skyline has been raging for years. They must not block historic views of monuments like St Paul’s Cathedral. Otherwise, there are not many rules for developers.

According to New London Architecture (NLA), 541 new skyscrapers are currently being planned in London. “Are we really aware of this, and what is happening?” asked architect Javier Quintana de Una last month. “Are we ready for something like this?”

London’s calling

In short: does London need more skyscrapers? Many say no. London’s skyline used to be dominated by St Paul’s, a symbol of history, religion and culture. Now it is all about glass skyscrapers — which are symbols of money, and little else.

“One of London’s key strengths is its ability to mix the historic and the contemporary,” countered the chair of the NLA, Peter Murray. Skyscrapers often attract controversy, but they can also be beautiful symbols of a city’s confidence and strength.

You Decide

  1. Do you like the design of the Tulip?

Activities

  1. Imagine you are in charge of writing new rules for building skyscrapers in London. What would developers have to do for their building to be approved? Think about issues like design, sustainability, and the impact on the local community.

Some People Say...

“We shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us.”

Winston Churchill

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
London is joint-55th in a list of cities with buildings over 150m. It has 19, the same number as Boston and Seattle. Hong Kong tops the list with 354, followed by New York City with 274 and Dubai with 190.
What do we not know?
How feelings about London’s new skyscrapers will change over time. Will they become beloved symbols of the city? Or seen as relics of a misguided past?

Word Watch

The Shard
At 306m, the Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe.
City of London
Confusingly, this does not mean the whole capital city. It is the financial district in central London.
Tower of London
A castle on the bank of the River Thames which was first built almost 1,000 years ago.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Built in the late 17th century and designed by the architect Christopher Wren.
New London Architecture
An independent forum for discussing London’s planning and architecture. These figures are from its 2019 survey.

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