Gherkin – The Cigar-Shaped Structure

Gherkin is the nickname of one of the most eye-catching buildings in London at 30 St Mary Axe as it looms large on the city’s skyline. It is one of the many modern buildings that have been built over several years in a historic area of London. Ken Shuttlewood who was the brains behind the building of Gherkin is now working on a new project and is waiting for the approval to build the tallest skyscraper in the Square Mile to date. He has taken over the prime plot that was originally reserved for the Pinnacle which was a Saudi Arabian-backed project that was shelved in 2009 due to the economic downturn. It will be quite a challenging task as the plans are to go above and beyond the Gherkin by almost 100 metres but Ken Shuttlewood appears to be quite capable of doing the job successfully.

The Gherkin is a 41-storey skyscraper that was commissioned for construction by Swiss Re, a reinsurance company. It was built in 2004 with a modern glass and steel design by the architectural firm of Foster and Partners. It was originally known as the Swiss Re Building but later on it was renamed to its street address 30 St. Mary Axe after it was sold by Swiss Re in 2007. Londoners had however dubbed the building as ‘Gherkin’ for its distinctive shape even before its construction was completed. It is still known by that name.

Gherkin is a cigar-shaped structure that has a steel frame with circular floor plans and a glass façade with diamond-shaped panels. The exterior view of the building shows a swirling striped pattern which is caused by the building’s energy-saving system which allows the air to flow up through spiralling wells. The base of the building on the street level is well-integrated with an open public plaza. A dramatic entrance is created with huge white X braces. Even more spectacular is the top of the tower where you can find an open hall covered by a glass conical dome. You can have fantastic views of the city from this vantage point. However, it is a pity that the building is not open to the public. Gherkin has won many awards including the Stirling Prize, the London Region Award, and the Emporis Skyscraper Award, mainly because of its unique, bold and energy efficient design.

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