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Tulip or not tulip?...that is the question

Tulip building by Sir Norman Foster

In April 2019, the City of London Corporation approved the 305m Tulip tower proposed for Bury Street, besides the Gherkin tower... which was designed by the same architect - Sir Norman Foster.

However, Sadiq Khan (London's Mayor) has advised planners to reject the proposals for this new skyscraper based on "unwelcoming, poorly designed" building.

But, what does this mean? What is a well-designed building? ... in essence, What is behind a beautiful building?

Firstly, we need to understand that everything that surrounds us, affects us.

Buildings are not only physical shelters, but they are also physicological shelters that form our identity and help us to deal with our emotions and feelings.

Once we accept this, we would need to question ourselves...what is a beautiful building? what is behind a good design? What does a building more desired than others?

For more than 1,000 years in Western societies, a beautiful building was a classic building (frontis, symmetric facade & columns) This style created by the Greeks, copied by the Romans and then, after 1,000 years it was rescued by the Reinassance. For centuries, it was clear how to build a beautiful building and almost no architects or clients felt the pulse of originality.

At the end of the XVIII century, in cities like London, there was a high demand for new homes.

It was at that point when aristocracy started to feel a predilection for fantasy and variety. In a way to compete and attract more clients. With the end of the universal canon of beauty, any style can be criticised and still today, the beauty dilemma is though to be unsolved and a difficult matter of debate.

Under the umbrella of 'freedom', it seems that everything is possible.

However, we think that there is a simple way to understand better why some designs are more desired than others. John Ruskin said that from a building we expect two things, they are physical shelters and we want them to speak with us about what we consider important and it has to be remembered. When we say that a building is beautiful, it is not just an aesthetic aspect, it also means that we feel attraction for the style of life implicit on it.

By moving the centre of discussion from the strictly visual aspect to the notion of a building in which "talk" helps us to focus on the values that we think are important for our societies rather than talking about vague visual aspects.

When we feel beauty is a sing that we have found materialised what we think is a good life and what values we would like to achieve.

Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle) wrote the clearest relation between visual pleasure and our values... Beauty is a promise of happiness.

Therefore, what we think moved the mayor to reject this project, was the lack of strong human values to make the development appealing. Clearly, for Sadik Khan this building wasn't a promise of a better life and happiness.

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