Art History Lab

The Gherkin: A Fascinating Look at London’s Iconic Egg-Shaped Tower

Overview of the Gherkin in London: A Unique Architecture Designed To Impress

London is the city of innovation and progress, a place where old meets the new. One of the most impressive modern architectural wonders of London is the Gherkin, officially known as 30 St Mary Axe.

This egg-shaped building with its peculiar architectural style stands 180 meters tall, an unmistakable landmark in the City of London. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the Gherkin – its history, design, and construction.

Architecture and Design

The Gherkin’s unique architecture and design make it stand out from other buildings in London. The building’s iconic shape is the result of its unconventional design, where the floors do not follow the traditional horizontal lines but rotate as they rise.

The curved lines give the building the appearance of a gherkin, which earned it its nickname. The building’s smooth glass faade reflects the surroundings, making it appear as if the building is disappearing into the sky.

The building’s architect, Ken Shuttleworth, designed the Gherkin to be environmentally friendly, with a spiraling glass structure that allows natural light to flood the interior. The building’s shape helps to minimize wind resistance, reducing the need for air conditioning and energy consumption.

The building also has an innovative ventilation system that utilizes the building’s geometry to create a natural air-flow.

History and Name

The Gherkin we know today was originally called the Swiss Re Building, the headquarters of the Swiss Re insurance company. The building was constructed in the early 2000s, and it was officially opened in 2004.

The building was initially met with mixed reactions, with some finding its shape ugly, while others were in awe of its unique design. In April 1992, the Provisional IRA bombed the Baltic Exchange building in London, which was located near the site where the Gherkin would later be built.

The bombing caused extensive damage to the surrounding buildings, including the historic St. Helen’s Church, which was heavily damaged. The Gherkin’s construction after the bombing was a significant symbol of the City of London’s recovery.

Construction Timeline

The construction of the Gherkin was completed in record time, taking only three years. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on August 30th, 2001, and the building was completed on December 28th, 2003.

The official opening ceremony was held in April 2004, and the building became the new Swiss Re headquarters.

Building Specifications

The Gherkin tower stands 180 meters tall and has 41 floors, 34 of which are occupied by offices. The building’s unusual shape reduces the wind effect on the facade, decreasing the amount of energy needed to regulate the air conditioning.

The building’s base has a diameter of 16 meters and a 35-meter diameter at the top. Its steel frame is covered with glass panels, making it an eco-friendly structure that relies on natural light for much of its energy needs.


The Gherkin’s unique, egg-shaped design and its environmental focus make it a wonder of modern architecture. The building’s cutting-edge design, innovative features, and fast construction timeline are a testament to London’s ability to balance the old with the new.

It remains one of the most exciting buildings in the City of London and an iconic structure known worldwide. Whether you admire the building’s design or have been adamantly against it, the Gherkin’s grandeur stands as a testament to London’s architectural and technological prowess.

Gherkin’s Architect and Architecture Firm: Building with Foster + Partners

The creation of the Gherkin in London was an incredible feat of building design and engineering that caught the world’s attention. The building’s creator,

Norman Foster of Foster + Partners, is without a doubt, one of the most prominent architects of our time.

The company is renowned for its revolutionary architectural designs and ambitious urban projects across the world. In this article, we will dive deeper into the world of Foster + Partners and their contributions to the architectural world.

Norman Foster

Norman Foster is a renowned British architect who has left an incredible mark on the architectural world. His career started in the 1960s, when he established his firm, Foster Associates, which would later become Foster + Partners.

He specialized in designing buildings that promoted sustainability, energy-efficiency, and green designs which were atypical to his peers at the time. Over the years, Foster has been recognized for his innovative architectural designs worldwide, earning himself the nickname “Master of Glass.”

Foster drew from his experience as a pilot in the British Royal Air Force, applying aircraft engineering technologies to create buildings that are beautiful, functional and unique in design.

He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which is considered the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in architecture. Foster + Partners

Foster + Partners is one of the most successful architecture firms in the world.

Established in 1967, the firm has completed over 1000 projects in more than 50 countries worldwide. The atmosphere of openness, collaboration, and innovation defines the firm’s culture, which has led to numerous successful and award-winning projects over the years.

Notable Projects

The Gherkin is one of Foster + Partners’ most notable and most iconic structures. Its unique helix-shaped diagonal structure makes this glass and steel skyscraper a true feat of modern architecture.

The firm has been involved in the construction of a wide range of buildings, ranging from small private residences to large urban developments and infrastructure. The company’s London projects include the iconic British Museum courtyard and the Bloomberg European headquarters.

Other notable global projects include the Beijing International Airport, Masdar City in the UAE, and the Hong Kong International Airport.

Notable Awards and Recognition

The Gherkin’s unique design and innovative approach have been recognized with numerous awards and accolades. It received the prestigious Stirling Prize in 2004, awarded annually in the UK to the best new building by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

The judges unanimously awarded the Gherkin the prize, calling it “an honourable, imaginative, and responsible solution to a difficult urban site.” In total, the building has won eleven awards for engineering, urban design, sustainability, and architecture.

Interesting Facts and Incidents

Aside from the Gherkin’s impressive architectural features, the building has some fascinating tidbits that make it all the more unique. In 2006, during the building excavation process of the Gherkin, a Roman Temple and a 2,000-year-old skeleton were discovered.

The building also had an incident in 2007 when a panel fell from the tower’s 38th floor, prompting its temporary closure. It was later determined that a worker committed a “reprehensible act” by removing the panel.

Additionally, the Gherkin has also served as a popular filming location, appearing in various movies and TV shows such as “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” and “Spooks.”

In 2013, the building also became a part of broadcast history when the Sky News presenter Jeff Randall hosted an entire show from the building’s top floor. The successful transmission was achieved by carrying up a small mobile satellite dish, which was crucial for the transmission.


The Gherkin in London is a remarkable example of innovation, sustainability, and architectural design. The building’s success is in part due to the incredible talent of

Norman Foster and his fellowship of architects at Foster + Partners.

Not only has the Gherkin won numerous awards and recognitions, but it has also captured the public’s imagination. The Gherkin’s iconic status in the architectural world is a testament to the success of Foster + Partners and its continued work in the built environment.

In summary, the Gherkin in London is a remarkable example of innovative and sustainable architectural design. The building is recognized worldwide for its unique structure, energy-efficiency and eco-friendliness.

It was designed by the renowned architect

Norman Foster of Foster + Partners. Foster’s career has been defined by his unique approach to architecture, which promotes sustainability and energy efficiency.

The Gherkin, along with numerous other iconic projects completed by Foster + Partners, is a testament to the firm’s continued success in the architectural world. The main takeaway from this article is that design and innovation can lead to standout projects that impact the world, and with the right investment from firms and visionaries, anything is possible.

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