By Natasha Gan
The Gherkin, or otherwise known as 30 St Mary Axe, is a handsome skyscraper located in the financial district of London, UK. The head-turning edifice resembles a bullet that shoots up from the ground – it’s curvaceous and elongated with a rounded apex, tapered inwards at the base and the top.
The 41-storey, 180-metre tall glass-covered building sits in the former spot of the Baltic Exchange, a building that was severely damaged by a bomb in 1992. A building of a much larger size was to occupy the site, but it would have hindered Heathrow Airport’s air traffic and obstruct views of London’s treasured St Paul’s Dome. Architect Norman Foster of the Foster + Partners firm then proposed the award-winning design of the Gherkin, which was fully realized in December 2003 by Skanska construction.
The Gherkin is more than just a pretty face – its design also carries a purpose to be energy efficient. Each floor has open shafts for ventilation purposes that pull warm air away from the building during the summer, and traps heat from the sun during the winter. The shafts allow a double-glazing effect where air is trapped between two layers, thereby insulating the space inside. The glass panels also allow for natural lighting, further decreasing operational costs. Supposedly, the Gherkin only requires half the energy a tower of its size would normally use.
A decade after it’s opened, the Gherkin has been sold for about £726 million to Brazilian billionaire Joseph Safra. It’s now primarily an office building with some retail shops, restaurant and a bar at the 40th floor offering a 360-degree view of London. The Guardian dubbed the edifice “a triumph of architecture” and it could well be UK’s latest urban icon, closely following the London Eye and the Big Ben.
Photo by 30 St. Mary Axe