Google+ London Architecture Blog: Week 9/13 Feature #2 30 St. Mary Axe, City of London

Monday, 25 February 2013

Week 9/13 Feature #2 30 St. Mary Axe, City of London

Top of the Tower. Photograph is author's own.
30 St. Mary Axe, Previously the 'Swiss Re Building' and informally known as the 'Gherkin'.
Architect: Foster and Partners
Date of completion: 2004
Location: 30 St. Mary Axe, City of London

30 St. Mary Axe is a 180m high glass office tower located in the financial district in the City of London. It is nicknamed the 'Gherkin' due to its form and was previously known as the 'Swiss Re Building'.

The tower was built on the site of the former Baltic Exchange which was destroyed by a bomb by the Provisional IRA in 1992. An earlier plan to be drawn up for the site was for a 386m tall Millennium Tower, also designed by Foster and Partners which at the time would have been the tallest building in Europe. Due to opposition owing to it's disruption to key flight paths into Heathrow airport and the scale of the tower the plans were rejected in 1996.

The design was then revised by Foster and Partners into its current streamlined form and planning permission was granted in 2000 and construction began in 2001. The design is centred around a radial floor plan which tapers out from the base and then back in towards the apex, creating a more environmentally sympathetic design (by reducing wind reflections and working with natural air circulation). The design is inspired by earlier experiments and projects as described on the Foster and Partner's website.

Conceptually the tower develops ideas explored in the Commerzbank and before that in the Climatroffice, a theoretical project with Buckminster Fuller that suggested a new rapport between nature and the workplace, its energy-conscious enclosure resolving walls and roof into a continuous triangulated skin.

Foster and Partners website, 2013.



Floor plans. Image copyright Foster and Partners.


The frame structure around the perimeter of the building allows for an open plan office layout and natural daylight into the building, as well as views out. Air circulation and natural ventilation is created by a series of lightwells which follow the curve of the building and help with the distribution of air and climate control throughout.


Entrance at ground floor level. Photograph is author's own.


The building has won numerous awards including the 2004 RIBA Stirling Prize.

The building is open to the public for guided tours during Open House weekend (in September each year)

Click here for more information on the project (links to Foster and Partners website)

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