30 St. Mary Axe in London

Photo of 30 St. Mary Axe in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 30 St. Mary Axe in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
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Photo of 30 St. Mary Axe in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 30 St. Mary Axe in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 30 St. Mary Axe in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 30 St. Mary Axe in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 30 St. Mary Axe in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 30 St. Mary Axe in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 30 St. Mary Axe in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 30 St. Mary Axe in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 30 St. Mary Axe in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 30 St. Mary Axe in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 30 St. Mary Axe in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 30 St. Mary Axe in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 30 St. Mary Axe in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 30 St. Mary Axe in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 30 St. Mary Axe in London, England
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
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30 St. Mary Axe
Also known as:Swiss Re Building
Also known as:The Gherkin

30 Saint Mary Axe, London, England, The City EC3
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The building that brought central London into the modern era of avant garde skyscrapers didn't come without controversy. Officially known as 30 St. Mary Axe, this building has been lovingly described as a lighthouse of 21st century architecture, and mocked as the "gherkin." When the Swiss Re insurance company commissioned the building, it intended it to be a landmark. Mission accomplished. Though its height is far less than other London skyscrapers, its prominent location, peeking up from behind the Tower of London, has landed it supporting roles in dozens of feature films, and millions of tourist snapshots.

The building is stunning in appearance -- a festival of dark and light glass with spandrels serving as streamers circling it like an Olympic dancer. Rectangular glass panes are forsaken for triangles and diamonds, and with each floor offset from the one below by five degrees, the building appears to work itself into a spiral like a pile of clay on a potter's wheel. The result is stunning and smooth. Even though the building appears round, the glass facade is actually all made of flat panels. The only curved piece of glass is the lens that tops the structure.

Inside, the building's utilities are gathered around a circular central core, which results in a doughnut of uninterrupted floor space for tenants. There are three elevator cores with double-height elevators servicing four distinct zones. Transfers are made through the main lobby as well as three sky lobbies.

Outside, the building has some interesting design features. Among them, the fact that the building is slightly sunken in its plaza, and an indented ring surrounds the building. The size of the indention corresponds to the building's drip line, so it catches rain running off the building and washes it inward. Access to the building is over very small bridges over this trough to the main doors. In addition to serving as a runoff basin, the indention holds recessed flood lights which illuminate the building from below.

Though the building is spectacular, it is far from harmonious with its neighbors. Even though the shockingly modern Lloyds of London Headquarters is just a few blocks away, 30 Saint Mary Axe is nestled in a neighborhood of quietly decaying townhouses and churches. This is an area that has stood silently for eight hundred years as London grew up around it. The insertion of a sparkling curved skyscraper in its midst is startling to unsuspecting pedestrians ambling along the narrow streets. The building that used to be on this site was the historic Victoria Baltic Exchange, built in 1903. That building was heavily damaged in a terrorist bombing executed by the Irish Republican Army in 1992. Preservation groups pushed to save the building, but the damage was too extensive and the cost too great to save it.

Quick Facts
Notes
    > This building was designed by Sir Norman Foster.
    > The top of the building is occupied by a private club and restaurant for people who work in this building. It is also occasionally rented out for private events.
    > The building was designed to use recycled or recyclable materials whenever possible.
    > The building uses open windows and natural ventilation to reduce energy costs.
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method='post' action='/Building.php?ID=731#Rate'>Current rating:50% 80%  name='Rating' id='Rating' value='Praise' class='Plain'> name='Rating' id='Rating' value='Raze' class='Plain'>
Your Thoughts

There are 15 comments.

  I have been to dubai and singapore lovely lovely buildings but i would rate this one as one of the worlds best just magnificent. Something keeps drawing your eyes to it.

Annie robb - Tuesday, January 7th, 2014 @ 7:27pm  

  Gilbert and Sullivan fans will recognize that the Gherkin is just down the street from the one-time residence of John Wellington Wells, title character of /The Sorcerer/.:"Oh, my name is John Wellington WellsI'm a dealer in magic and spellsIn blessings and cursesAnd ever-filled pursesIn prophecies, witches, and knellsIf you want a proud foe to "make tracks"If you'd melt a rich uncle in waxYou've but to look in on our resident DjinnNumber seventy, Simmery Axe"

Alan Follett - Tuesday, October 30th, 2012 @ 4:58pm  

  Okay, I'm a big time stickler for old time buildings, and at first glance I thought somebody photoshopped an easter egg into London.. but ya know.... I really like it!

Oswald - Tuesday, May 13th, 2008 @ 7:40am  

  This building is a most wonderful thing that i ever seen and it's not the only one there.I mean in London

Lucy - Thursday, May 8th, 2008 @ 6:07am  

  Innovative, inspiring, iconic. Redefines the skyscraper and is an exceptional piece of architecture which is synonymous with Foster + Partners brilliant work. Superb!

Martin Lee - Sunday, April 20th, 2008 @ 11:44pm  

  Easily the best modern building in London. Nothing else comes close to be honest. One of the most ingenius skyscrapers ever built, anywhere.

Will Fox - Monday, April 14th, 2008 @ 7:42am  

  Good ol' Foster once again - over the last year or so i've criticised his work rather a lot but after studying Architecture and his buildings, you get a sense that part of a personality was infused into the structural design of this building. I haven't visited this particular building yet but it's slowly growing on me. However London City Hall is easily a greater achievement for Foster (in my opinion).

Mike Grimmer - Monday, April 7th, 2008 @ 6:32pm  

  I saw this building once on a trip to london, and it took my breath away. The juxtapostion of this modern glass building with the stone around it is inspired. I only hope london continues to modernize in such a beautiful way.

Temperance - Thursday, March 6th, 2008 @ 12:02pm  

  This happens to be one of my favorite buildings worldwide, Londoners should be proud of this building... absolutely perfect.

keston - Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008 @ 10:04am  

  Absolutely superb Every city and town should have inventive buildings like this, you appreciate good architecture more seeing buildings from different time periods next/near to each other

Jenny - Tuesday, January 1st, 2008 @ 12:19pm  

  A modern British landmark set to be a Classic Building of the millennium.

Suzi Williams - Saturday, June 2nd, 2007 @ 7:23pm  

  Did you ever see in that doctor who christmas special where the glass shattered of the gherkni, what and absolute heartbraker that would be if that happened. It is GREAT!

Adam Crawley - Monday, February 19th, 2007 @ 5:04pm  

  This building is a real dominant of the whole City. It's perfect simple shape makes it more significant than any other highrise and, at the same time, it's in coplete harmony with the environment. It is created to be seen from a distance. Hats off!

Mike - Thursday, May 11th, 2006 @ 7:37pm