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Race to stand out on London's skyline
A GLASS tulip perched a thousand feet above London may be the next striking addition to the British capital's ever-changing skyline, according to plans announced by architect Norman Foster's studio on Monday.
When a bullet-shaped skyscraper, a creation of the Foster studio that quickly became known as the Gherkin, opened in 2004, its curved lines made it a curiosity in the city's skyline.
The building, officially 30 St Mary Axe, was a bold addition to London's historic financial centre, known as the City.
Since then, the race to stand out on the London horizon has sped up, with unusually shaped towers known - officially or not - as the Shard, the Cheese Grater and the Walkie Talkie.
At the same time, the Gherkin became less visible, almost enclosed in a thicket of other skyscrapers that is only going to grow in coming years.
The proposed new tower, the Tulip, would raise the aesthetic stakes, with a glass structure like a closed tulip blossom, echoing the shape of the Gherkin, on an elongated concrete stem, high above its neighbors.
With Brexit sowing fears about where the City, and Britain as a whole, are headed, the plan to build the Tulip by 2025 comes as an optimistic statement about London's future.
"Continuing the pioneering design of 30 St Mary Axe, the Tulip is in the spirit of London as a progressive, forward-thinking city," Mr Foster said in a statement.
The project is a partnership between the J Safra Group, the owner of the Gherkin, and Foster and Partners.
A formal planning application was submitted to the City authorities last week, and construction could begin in 2020 if permission is granted, though a spokeswoman for the project declined to discuss how it might be financed.
Visitors would be able to ride in glass "gondola pods" revolving around the outside of the summit. Inside would be viewing platforms, restaurants and a bar, and a glass chute for people to slide from one level to another.
There would be an interactive exhibition on the history of London, in keeping with the local authorities' drive to infuse cultural experiences into the financial district.
At just over 305 m tall, the Tulip would not quite match London's tallest structure, the Shard, designed by Renzo Piano, which is almost 310 m.
For centuries, St Paul's, the domed 17th century cathedral, was the tallest structure in London and the highest vantage point for viewing a low-rise city. At about 111 m tall, it was not surpassed until the 1960s.
The Gherkin was the first new tall building in the City of London since the 1970s, but after it came several more.
Some newer London structures, like the Shard and the giant observation wheel called the London Eye, offer lofty, publicly accessible views of the city, which the Gherkin does not.
While some people greeted the proposal for the Tulip as a welcome, bold idea, its shape quickly drew mockery on social media.
"For a start, it's not going to be called 'the tulip' for long," one user said, and one of the kinder alternatives suggested was "The Cotton Bud". NYTIMES