The unusually shaped London skyscraper known officially as 30 St Mary Axe is fondly called the Gherkin by Londoners and visitors alike. Because of its unique design the Gherkin would be a most striking building even in a forest of modern glass and steel towers. However, its placement in central London causes the protruding bulbous building to stand out starkly above its more modest neighbors.
London has a variety of building standards in place to preserve aesthetic views and protect sightlines of many of the historic and scenic venues of the world-class city. Buildings in this area have long been limited to a height of 100 meters, about half that of the 30 St Mary Axe, and most of the more historical buildings are much lower in height. An early ‘90s IRA bombing of the historic Baltic Exchange created a void the city desperately wanted filled. The original proposal, the Millennium Tower, featured a tower of over 300 meters and was rejected as too tall. The city finally accepted this design for the 180 meter 40 story skyscraper. They began erecting the tower in 2001 and it opened in 2004, just a few months before I took this photo. A sale of 30 St Mary Axe was completed February 2007 for £680MM or about $1.25 billion.
30 St Mary Axe is also known as the Swiss Re Tower after the Swiss insurance company that previously owned and is still the primary tenant of the building. The title of Gherkin was bestowed in a mid ‘90s newspaper article about the proposed tower and quickly adopted by readers. However, because of its unusual design the Gherkin has acquired some other colourful nicknames ... such as ... the Crystal Phallus!
A peck of pickle trivia:
- Height - 180 m (600ft)
- In spite of its round and curved appearance, the tower is composed of 745 flat glass panels. The only curved panel being the cap on the very tip top of the tower.
- The building incorporates both passive (convection) cooling and heating, and utilizes the natural light to reduce the cost of illuminating workspaces during the day.
- The fortieth floor is occupied by a panoramic bar in the dome with 360° views.
- The gherkin can be seen from 30km (20mi) away in Windsor.