22 other skyscrapers that we assume will be joining the Tulip on the London skyline

Artist's impression. See if you can guess which one The Tulip is. Image: Foster + Partners.

This week City of London planners have approved a new ‘the’ skyscraper to join the Gherkin, the Walkie Talkie, and the Cheese Grater on London’s skyline: the Tulip, so-called because it looks like how someone crap at drawing would draw a tulip.

If it actually ends up getting built, the Tulip will be stand out in function as well as design in that it will serve no particular function other than being there. You can go up, look around, and make yourself a certificate saying “I went up the Tulip” to show to your tired family when they ask what you’re doing with your life.

Social media is going CRAZY about it, i.e. several articles have been written on the basis that they’ve found at least one tweet saying it looks like a sperm or a sex toy. Historic England are furious that it will ruin the “setting of the Tower of London”, which is clearly enough of a sex toy for them. But wait until they find out about this top secret list of future London skyscrapers someone’s just leaked to CityMetric:

The Satire

A single flat at the top of a long pole which costs more than the net worth of anyone on earth to rent. For a day.

The Brexit

Not so much a tower as a 2000 foot high gaping void into hell that burns anyone who looks at it regardless of whether they thought it was a good or bad idea in the first place.

The Allen Key

Slowly unscrews its own foundations out of the earth, then falls over in order to temporarily restore London’s historic reviews while they send the crane to haul it back up.

The Bernard Matthews Turkey Drummer

The first skyscraper in London to made out of reconstituted meat product is bootiful but controversial until tests reveal that the meat content is so low that the tower is actually vegan.

The Queen Elizabeth

A building that has absolutely nothing to do with the Queen inexplicably renamed after her presumably just so weird pervert royalists can enjoy going up inside it.

The Post Office Tower

Replica of the BT Tower built nearby purely to annoy people who keep calling it the Post Office Tower like it’s still 1973 or whatever

The Old Post Office Tower

A second replica of the BT Tower built nearby because you’re not going to call it that either.

The Jenga

Innovative skyscraper design featuring inexpensive, but largely fatal, removable office spaces.

The Swan Vesta

Opening 5 November 2021. Reconstruction to start 6 November 2021.


The Shard, Except Upside Down

The Tower That Looks Like A Horse Doing The Washing Up

The Sword Out Of Thundercats

The Nelson’s Column But With A WeWork In It

The Battery That’s Never The Size Of Battery You Need For This Particular Remote Control

The Kinder Egg

The surprise it has capitalism inside.

The Pop-up Pirate

The Bollard

The Annoying Branded Pint Glass With A Stem On It

The Proctoscope

The Spirograph

The Scaletrix

Will be closed indefinitely after someone makes the lifts go too fast and they shoot out of the shafts and get smashed to bits.

The Spanner

Tower in the shape of YOUR FACE, owned, you idiot.

 
 
 
 

To see how a city embraces remote work, just look to Helsinki

A deeply rooted culture of trust is crucial to the success of remote work. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

When I speak to Anssi Salminen, an account manager who lives an hour outside Helsinki, he’s working from a wooden platform on the edge of a Finnish lake. With a blanket laid out and his laptop set up, the sun low in the sky, Anssi’s remote work arrangement seems blissful. 

“I spend around half of my time working somewhere else other than the office,” he says. “I can work from home, or on the go, and I also travel to the Netherlands once a month and work from there.

“The emphasis in my work has always been that it doesn’t matter when or where I work, as long as I get things done.”

For many people around the world, the shift to remote work was sudden, sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. Finland, however, is finding the transition much less significant. Before Covid-19, the Nordic nation already displayed impressive levels of remote working, with 14.1% of its workforce reporting usually working from home. Only the Netherlands has a comparable percentage of remote workers, while the UK lagged behind at 4.7%, and the US’s remote workforce lingered at around 3.6%

Anssi works for one of many Helsinki-based companies that offers its employees flexible policies around when and where they work. That arrangement is in part due to the Finnish capital’s thriving start-up scene. In spite of being a relatively small city by global standards it is home to over 500 technology start-ups. These companies are leading the way when it comes to keeping employees connected wherever they choose to work.

“Our company has a completely location-free working policy,” says Kasper Pöyry, the CEO of Helsinki-headquartered software company Gapps. “All meetings are made available for online participants and facilitated accordingly. Some employees have worked extensively from abroad on a working holiday, whilst others prefer the comfort and social aspects of the well-stocked office. Whatever works for our employees is what works for the company.”

Like Gapps, many Helsinki-based firms are deeply preoccupied with providing the necessary technology to attract talent in a vast and sparsely populated country. Finland has only 15 inhabitants per square kilometre, and companies understand that in order to compose teams of specialised expertise, they may have to seek talent outside of the city. Local governments take a similarly proactive stance toward technological access, and Helsinki offers free, unrestricted, high-speed Wi-Fi from city-wide hotspots, while the country as a whole boasts some of the best coverage in Europe. 

But encouraging remote work isn’t just about optimising the potential of Finland’s workforce – companies in Helsinki also recognise that flexibility has clear benefits for both staff and employees. 

“The idea of a good work-life balance is ingrained in Finnish culture,” says Johannes Anttila, a consultant at organisational think tank Demos Helsinki. “It goes back to our rich history of social dialogue between labour unions and employers, but also to an interest in delineating the rules of working life and pushing towards people being able to enjoy their private life. Helsinki has been named the best city in the world for work-life balance, and I think that this underlies a lot of the mentality around remote work.” 

For Peter Seenan, the extent to which Helsinki residents value their free time and prioritise a work-life balance prompted his move to the city ten years ago. He now works for Finnair, and points to Finland’s summer cottages as an example of how important taking time to switch off is for people in the country. These rural residences, where city residents regularly uproot to enjoy the Nordic countryside, are so embedded in Finnish life that the country boasts around 1.8 million of them for its 5.5 million residents

“Flexible and remote work are very important to me because it means that I don’t feel like I’m getting stuck in a routine that I can’t control easily,” he says. “When I’m working outside of the office I’ll go down to my local sauna and go ice swimming during the working day, typically at lunchtime or mid-morning, and I’ll feel rejuvenated afterwards… In winter time especially, flexibility is important because it makes it easier to go outside during daylight hours. It’s certainly beneficial for my physical and mental health, and as a result my productivity improves.”

The relaxed attitude to working location seems to pay off – Finland is regularly named the happiest country in the world, scoring highly on measures such as how often its residents exercise and how much leisure time they enjoy. With large swathes of unspoiled countryside and a national obsession with the outdoors, sustainability is at the forefront of its inhabitants’ minds, leading to high levels of support for measures to limit commuting. In January, Finland passed a new Working Hours Act, the goal of which was to help better coordinate employee’s work and leisure time. Central to this is cementing in law that employees can independently decide how, when, and where they work.

Yet enacting the new ruling is not as simple as just sending employees home with their laptops. For Kirsimarja Blomqvist, a professor of knowledge management at LUT University, perhaps the most fundamental feature that remote work relies upon is a deeply rooted culture of trust, which Helsinki’s residents speak of with pride. The anecdotal evidence is backed up by data which suggests that Finland boasts one of the highest levels of trust and social cohesion in Europe, and equality and transparency have always been key cornerstones of political thought in the country.

“Trust is part of a national culture in Finland – it’s important and people value it highly,” she explains. “There’s good job independence, and people are valued in terms of what they do, not how many hours they work for. Organisations tend to be non-hierarchical, and there is a rich history of cooperation between trade unions, employers, and employees to set up innovative working practices and make workers feel trusted and valued. 

“It’s now important that we ensure that this trust can continue to be built over technology, when workers might have been more used to building it face-to-face.”

As companies begin to look hopefully toward a post-Covid future, the complexities of remote work are apparent. Yet amid issues of privacy, presenteeism, and social isolation, the Helsinki model demonstrates the potential benefits of a distanced working world. The adjustment to remote work, if continued after the crisis, offers a chance to improve companies’ geographical diversity and for employers to demonstrate trust in their workforce. On these issues, Blomqvist believes other cities and employers can learn a lot from Helsinki.

“People are now beginning to return to their workplaces, but even as they do they are starting to consider the crisis as a jumping point to an even more remote future,” she says. “The coronavirus pandemic has been an eye-opener, and people are now interested in learning from Finland’s good practices… We are able to see the opportunity, and the rapid transition to remote work will allow other countries to do the same.”