Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe)

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Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe)
Architect: Foster & Partners
Year(s) of construction: 2004
Height: 180 m
Floors: 40
Built-up Area: 76,400 m2
Coordinates: 51° 30' 52" N, 0° 4' 49" W
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Most parts of this article have been translated using the Google automatic translate engine. Please excuse any mistakes this translation might have and feel free to correct them if you wish to collaborate with our project.


At the heart of the City, 30 St. Mary Axe, known as the Gherkin, is the headquarters of the Swiss Reinsurance Company (Swiss Re). The building is not only a unique reference point in the London skyline, but it is also the first skyscraper built in the British capital with green technology.

The building emerges where once was the headquarters of the Baltic Exchange, a company that managed the sea and rents that dealt with the sale of ships. When in 1992 an IRA bomb destroyed the building, it was thought possible in a restaurant, but later realized that the old structure could not be recovered.

Only in 2000, however, consent was given for the completion of new construction.

The integration of the Swiss Tower in the context of the City had yet to be submitted to the rules of the authorities in London, which specifically requested that they be respected identity and style of other buildings.

Swiss Tower certainly not going unnoticed and are clearly distinguished in the landscape of London, especially from afar, but it is also true that while walking along St. Mary Axe is not immediately perceived the presence of a building "anomalous" through the mass, not overly impressive. The futuristic tower, which seems almost ready to take off from land to launch a missile into the sky, is an incredibly aerodynamic shape, despite its monolithism; design won in 2004, the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize to a vote first unanimous.

In 2007, Swiss Re sold the building to IVG and Evans Randall. However, Swiss Re continues to use the building along with another tenant, Kirkland and Ellis.

The controversy

Because the first thing that raised the first architectural icon / twenty-first century of the British capital, which went to Big Ben and the news in Europe, was controversial. The reaction to the project came from the non-royalty, either the political or the English planning authorities. Religious institutions were those that made the cry in heaven for this atypical form that interrupt the view of the Anglican Cathedral of St. Paul, designed by Sir Christopher Wren 300 years ago.

Calm those concerns were the height of 180 meters deep in a tight spot or who sparked the debate. "The heart of the city is the only place where it makes sense to go up in the building, given the density and lack of green," said Foster. Moreover, the change in diameter (measured 49 meters at the base, 56.5 at its widest, narrowing to 26.5 on the top floor), which is what gives it the appearance was the solution to the ground.


The Forms

The variation of the diameter of the plants is significant, it measures 49 meters at the base, 56.5 at its widest, narrowing to 26.5 on the top floor, which is what gives it the appearance of "Rocket" or "cucumber" as the Londoners have been baptized.

The oval shape achieves an average area of 1,400 square meters per floor, which rises to the level in 1800 and 16 drops to 600 in 34.

According to the author, this "helps the flow of winds around the walls, reducing the pressure on the structure and avoiding any way to ground level, which could affect pedestrians."

Likewise, the advantages in the interior and the possibility of orthogonal available in the areas of desktops and in the center, a rectangular area of bathrooms and staircases. Most rooms have views of the exterior: only 3% of Swiss Re's spaces are closed.

Green Building

With a height of 180 meters, this spectacular XXI century tower has a circular diameter grows in their development towards the top, then fall again when approaching the top of the tip. Thanks to this has been possible to increase the area available for the entry of natural light, and improve, therefore, air circulation, thus taking advantage of natural ventilation in indoor spaces.

On each floor, a series of interstices with 6 pipes made of natural ventilation system, functioning as a double glazing. Pipes used for cooling in the summer, drawing warm air from the building, and for heating in winter. They also allow for easier entry of light, with a consequent reduction in the cost of lighting. The systematic internal microclimate and solutions for energy savings have led to a 50% reduction in energy consumption in any case necessary for a building of this size.


Is the structure that differs from the majority of the tall buildings that use the center for lateral stability. This structure consists of a core surrounded by a grid of interconnected steel elements diagonally. The bearing system of the tower is secured by the outer steel armor whose cornerstone is formed by two powerful inverted V, which have the height of two levels. There are 18 pieces that make up each ring of the structure, complete, has 19 rings superimposed.

The grid of the external facade is made up of three panels of thick glass double outward and inward laminated glass, to maximize revenue without removing light views. It is a laborious orchestration of light and glare control. The brightness is greater at lower levels, while from the waist of the building as the plants are tuned, the effects of solar reflection were minimized. This was made possible by digital tools deployed in the design. In total, some 5,500 panels that are mounted on the structure: they are all flat (except for the dome), and only those located in the atrium outside can be opened for ventilation.

When carrying the grid, the kernel will not demand any kind of reinforcement diagonal. This gives greater flexibility to plants. This work, say those who closely followed, it was only possible thanks to the harmonious interaction between Foster and engineers Arup.



35 km of steel, 10 thousand tons were used to build the Swiss Re

24,000 square meters of glass were used for the exterior of the building, equivalent to five football fields.

360. The top floor is a circular bar that overlooks the entire city.

40 floors and 180 meters in height is Swiss Re, making it the second highest skyscraper in London.

76,400 square meters of offices offers the Swiss Re


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