2004 - London, UK

30 St Mary Axe

If Foster + Partners’ newly occupied Swiss Re Tower was any more revolutionary it would rotate.

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London’s first ecological tall building and an instantly recognisable addition to the city’s skyline, this headquarters designed 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.

30 St Mary Axe

London UK

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  • Appointment 1997
  • Completion 2004
  • Area 64,469m²
  • Height 180m
  • Capacity 4,500
  • Client Swiss Re
  • Structural Engineer Arup
  • Quantity Surveyor Gardiner & Theobold
  • Environmental Engineer Hilson Moran Partnership
  • Landscape Architect Derek Lovejoy Partnership
  • Lighting Engineer Speirs + Major
  • Website http://thegherkinlondon.com
  • 2005 - LDSA Built in Quality Awards – Winner Innovation category
  • 2005 - Wallpaper 2004 Design Awards – Winner Best New View
  • 2006 - London Architectural Biennale Best Building Award
  • 2006 - Civic Trust Award
  • 2004 - DETAIL Special Award for Steel
  • 2004 - RIBA Stirling Prize
  • 2004 - Dutch Steel Award – Category A
  • 2004 - IAS/OAS Awards – Best Central London Development
  • 2004 - London Architecture Biennale – Best New London Building
  • 2004 - RIBA Award
  • 2004 - The International Highrise Award – Honourable Mention
  • 2004 - Emporis Skyscraper Award 2003
  • 2010 - London Planning Awards, Best Built Project - 5 Years On
  • 2003 - ECCS European Steel Design Award
  • 2003 - AR/MIPIM Future Project Prize – ‘Best of Show’ joint winner
  • Whether you like or loathe tall buildings, the Gherkin is a supremely skilful addition to London’s skyline. Walk along the South Bank of the Thames from the Design Museum to the Royal Festival Hall or drive into the City along Mile End Road, particularly at night, and the Gherkin’s curving form constantly entertains and enlivens.
    The Daily Telegraph
  • 30 St Mary Axe

  • The Swiss Re tower is arguably the most important 21st century landmark in London.
    Building Design