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The controversial 305m Tulip Tower was approved by by the City of London Planning and Transportation Committee held in London’s Guildhall yesterday – with 18 votes for and 7 against. The next stage is to see whether The Mayor approves it too. He has approved some rather objectionable buildings so this one may yet pass those further hurdles. Either you love it or you don’t. Is The Tulip really such an objectionable building by the way? Let’s take a look….

Are Historic Royal Palaces right when they say the Tower of London is being blighted by other buildings, especially seeing they have most strongly objected to The Tulip? I think these people, sat in their offices at the rear of Hampton Court Palace, really don’t know very much of what they are talking about.

Come to think of it, the Tower of London isnt even in the City of London, its in Tower Hamlets so what have things over the border got to do with them? Let them in the City get on with it I say!

The rot had set in centuries ago and even more recently when Tower Bridge opened in 1894 but that was perhaps forgivable because the bridge was built in a style that rather complemented the earlier Tower of London, and this is why no-one complains about the bridge’s intrusion right onto the perimeter of the Tower (except for perhaps the long approach road along the east side of the Tower which fortuitously blocks an ugly hotel somewhat…)

It is somewhat pretentious of Historic Royal Palaces to claim the background to the Tower of London is being destroyed. Who let that mighty fine specimen of a hotel go up right opposite? Not forgetting and things like the Barbican and numerous skyscrapers in the City since the sixties!

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Gawd please no! This is a view of the City from the ongoing Barbican development in 1969. Look at how many skyscrapers were up in the City by then (evidently new ones going up too!) The tallest of these was 400 feet. Source: You Tube

Many other buildings have arisen in past decades, past centuries. Trinity House was built right opposite the Tower in 1796. That wasn’t a problem because All Hallows by the Tower had already put its foot in the works – a much earlier tall spire sat right in front of the historic castle as early as 1658.

This is more than three hundred years before anyone really pretty well went to town with any sort of taller structures. Trinity House was bombed in WWI nevertheless a new and much more imposing replacement went up in the 1920s complete with a tall tower on the top which was acknowledged as one of the tallest buildings in London at the time. Obviously the prognosis was things were getting much bigger than before. After all the Tower had liked to be the biggest of all – now it’s complaining because it’s become smaller fry!

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Complaints about the Walkie Talkie but not the huge Trinity House or the smaller All Hallows? Whats that dump of a building doing down there in the Tower’s moat area? ‘Tourists, draw up and let’s celebrate the existence of this mysterious ugly, square, brick building, its been World Heritage approved!’

In the late sixties more blight arrived. The original west side St Katharine Docks buildings were demolished and up went the Tower Hotel (this too is in Tower Hamlets dont forget.) Its a rather awful structure not very much in keeping in with The Tower. This particular hotel has won the accolade for being the second ugliest building in London several times over – and its still standing!

Those at the old Ministry of Public Building and Works (later to be Department of the Environment) didn’t throw any sort of tantrum when the new Tower Hotel went up even though it was right on their doorstep, but then again those in charge of the ‘Ancient Monuments’ included a certain trio of guys who were easily encouraged to look the other way.

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In the shadow of the Tower – and voted one of London’s ugliest several times over…

Just to put a perspective on things St Paul’s Cathedral, not far to the west of the Tower, was the tallest building in London for over 300 years until the 1960s. Did anyone complain about that? Nope. Now of course both St Pauls and the Tower have many other buildings dwarfing them, ranging from the Barbican to the very prominent Shard – and of course the many structures in the City itself. Tower 42 was built in the 1970s and officially opened by the Queen in 1981. And the objections to that from the Tower??

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Look at the size of Tower Bridge and the Tower Hotel compared to the Tower of London. Note how Trinity House looks so much bigger than the Tower. Priorities? Source: Google Earth

Its only now the Tower of London is looking somewhat like a toy castle on the banks of the Thames that the buildings most recent guardians, Historic Royal Palaces, are throwing a tantrum. Their predecessors should have thrown a bloody hard tantrum when Trinity House, Tower Hotel, the National Westminster Tower, and all the others including the Shard, Walkie Talkie all went up. Now they are throwing one because its just one slender structure than isn’t really going to change the city skyline much.

The very good news is there are loads of other skyscrapers on the way! ‘Year of the tall building’ as skyscrapers spread across London scream the headlines in the Architect’s Journal. And this article, like many others, tells us this ever growing forest of skyscrapers actually has the good backing of the Mayor and his deputies.

Let’s face it the views of the City of London are something of a moot point. In terms of history they are nefarious. The protected views towards St. Pauls are anything but – besides the controversial Manhattan Loft Gardens sat slap bang in direct line of the famous cathedral, the views were destroyed decades ago when the first tall buildings went up, not forgetting the Barbican itself forming a backdrop to the cathedral itself then the biggest daddy of them all at the time – the Nat West Tower. The IRA did the rest they demolished quite a bit of the City – this ultimately created a desire to build better and bigger. Out of the ashes came the Gherkin and the ball’s been rolling ever since.

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Is this their bad or the Tower’s bad? You decide! Don’t overlook the prominence that’s Trinity House!

What about Twenty Two? Thats massive compared to ‘The Tulip!’ Then there’s the really really massive Number One Undershaft, yet to be built. Not to worry London has over 500 tall towers on the way – planned, approved or under construction.

Many ‘historic’ locations have been changed beyond recognition in the past couple of decades. The Mayor himself approved a number of schemes immensely opposed by local groups including the Elephant. His own offices are in a building right opposite the Tower itself – and it’s one that doesn’t lend any sort of contribution to the Tower’s historic setting!

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