London’s first ecological tall building and an instantly recognisable addition to the city’s skyline, this headquarters for Swiss Re is rooted in a radical approach − technically, architecturally, socially and spatially. Forty-one storeys high, it provides 46,400 square metres net of office space together with an arcade of shops and cafés accessed from a newly created piazza. At the summit is a club room that offers a spectacular 360-degree panorama across the capital.
Generated by a circular plan, with a radial geometry, the building widens in profile as it rises and tapers towards its apex. This distinctive form responds to the constraints of the site: the building appears more slender than a rectangular block of equivalent size and the slimming of its profile towards the base maximises the public realm at street level.
Environmentally, its profile reduces wind deflections compared with a rectilinear tower of similar size, helping to maintain a comfortable environment at ground level, and creates external pressure differentials that are exploited to drive a unique system of natural ventilation.
Conceptually the tower develops ideas explored in the Commerzbank and before that in the Climatroffice, a theoretical project with Buckminster Fuller that suggested a new rapport between nature and the workplace, its energy-conscious enclosure resolving walls and roof into a continuous triangulated skin. Here, the tower’s diagonally braced structure allows column-free floor space and a fully glazed facade, which opens up the building to light and views.
Atria between the radiating fingers of each floor link vertically to form a series of informal break-out spaces that spiral up the building. These spaces are a natural social focus – places for refreshment points and meeting areas – and function as the building’s ‘lungs’, distributing fresh air drawn in through opening panels in the facade. This system reduces the building’s reliance on air conditioning and together with other sustainable measures, means that it uses only half the energy consumed by a conventionally air-conditioned office tower.
“Swiss Re said it was proud of the Gherkin, which has many environmental features. It will book a gain of £250m on the deal.”Phillip Inman, Guardian 2007
“In London, Lord Foster has already made as much impact on the City itself as Wren did, with his quirky 'Gherkin' winning the prestigious Stirling Prize”Janet Street-Porter, IoS 19/12/04
“The Swiss Re tower is arguably the most important 21st century landmark in London”.Building Design 13/05/05
“Gherkin Sale helps Swiss Re beat estimates', Swiss Re, the world's biggest reinsurer, boosted net profits by more than a half in the first quarter, thanks partly to the sale of the Gherkin, its distinctive London headquarters. Selling the cylindrical building, a landmark on the City of London skyline, generated SFr268m ($220m) gain, helping to boost net profits 54 per cent to SFr1.33bn - well above analysts' estimates.”Financial Times, May 2007
Construction start: 2001
Area: 64 469 m²
Height: 180 m
Client: Swiss Re
Structural Engineer: Arup
Quantity Surveyor: Gardiner & Theobold
M+E Engineer: Hilson Moran Partnership
Landscape Architect: Derek Lovejoy Partnership
Lighting Engineer: Speirs and Major
Related Press Releases
Civic Trust Awards win
30 St Mary Axe, London