30 St Mary Axe

The Erotic Gherkin

Norman Foster’s building was a wonderful addition to London’s skyline in 2003: it’s only 33 stories high, but it certainly makes a mark. Formally it’s known as 30 St Mary Axe (the street name), or Swiss Re (the main tenant is Swiss Re-Insurance), but “Erotic Gherkin” is surely a name that’ll last.

Curiously there’s only one piece of curved glass in the whole place – the centre piece at the very top of the tower. The rest are all flat panels, which seems surprising unless you have a feeling for geometry.

It’s also “naturally ventilated”, which to me is a cheap excuse for not putting proper air-conditioning in. (This is common in modern British buildings and seems to please most people…after all, not only is it more “green”, but British people in general have no feeling for what it is to be properly cool and fresh. Personally I like my office to be icy cold with a breeze blasting through – but it’s becoming hard to find anywhere like that these days.)

If you think there’s a connection with London City Hall, there is – Norman Foster did that one too. And the British Museum’s Great Court, and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. Ah well, if an idea works…

Here’s a link to the Wikipedia article on the Gherkin. The article used to include some even naughtier names, but they seem to have been removed!

The marvellous nose-cone
Long view across the Thames
Many geometric effects if you turn the camera
The whole height
Neighbours – the church of St Andrew Undershaft
Neighbours – a sheer Mies van der Rohe tower