The 30 St Mary Axe first emerged above London’s skyline in 2003, it was unlike any tall building that Londoners had ever previously seen. It almost instantly became known “the Gherkin,” and, although the likeness to a pickled cucumber might seem a touch far-fetched, the nickname does acknowledge not only the tower’s unique, organic shape, but also its proud claim to be “green.” The building’s well-known architect, Lord Foster, has described it as a “pine cone.”
The shape of the building allows the 40-story building to occupy a minimum of ground space. The diameter of the building is 50 metres at base level, it expands bulbous waist of 56 metres on the 16th before tapering towards its highest point. In fact, the buildings height of 180 metres is only 2 metres greater than its maximum circumference. This means that the most of the site is left free as public space, a valuable commodity in London’s densely built financial heart. The shape also offers less resistance to the wind, reducing the down-droughts and eddies that swirl around tall structures.
The buildings consume up to 30 percent less energy than an equivalent-sized office block of conventional design. Much of this saving is achieved through the tower’s “biomorphic” form, which reduces the reliance on artificial lighting and air conditioning. The atria that spiral up around the core open up the structure to sunlight and fresh air, which is drawn by natural convection through the diagonal raising levels. Windows can also be opened to allow natural ventilation of the building.
- The building was officially opened in March 2004 and it can, in theory, accommodate about 4,000 people.
- The building contains nearly 35 kilometers on structural steel.
- The glass cladding consists of 5,500 panels, covering the equivalent of 5 soccer fields.