Top Sight Tours Group

27 May

The Gherkin: History of London’s Newest Iconic Building

Dotting the London skyline with its unique shape, the Gherkin is one of London’s most interesting looking buildings. Take it all in on a Top Sights Tour and check out some fun facts about the snack shaped building below!


30 St Mary Axe, or The Gherkin as it is popularly known, is one of London’s most well known skyscrapers. Cool as a cucumber and uniquely shaped, it has earned itself a coveted place in the hearts of Londoners and amongst the enduring icons of Buckingham Palace, The London Eye, St Paul’s and Big Ben as one of London’s great buildings. But how well do you know the building?


Lift Off!

Its high powered lifts are capable of transporting 378 people at a time, at speeds of 6m per second. Charlie can keep his glass elevator, thank you very much!


Manhattans All Round

One of London’s highest lounge bar and restaurant is situated at the top of the building, which at a lofty 180 metres is higher than any of The Shard’s or 20 Fenchurch Street’s offerings. Sadly they are open only for tenants and their guests.


In a Premier League Of Its Own

The Gherkin is covered by 24,000 sq metres of external glass or the equivalent of five football pitches. The Gherkin: 1. Bog standard London building: 0.


Taking On The Mountains

The Gherkin is over three times the height of Niagara Falls. Water feat!


Wide Load

The largest circumference of the Gherkin is only two metres less than the building’s height.


Loose Fittings

In April 2005 a large window popped out of the skyscraper and fell 28 storeys to the ground, prompting rigorous checks and questioning the sustainable credentials of the tower. A right pickle.Image result for the gherkin


All About That Base

The grave of a young Roman girl was discovered during the early stages of construction. The girl was preserved at The Museum of London while the building was constructed and then re-buried at the base of the tower on completion. To other skyscrapers of London, does your base have a roman remains buried? Nope, thought not. Gherkin wins again!


 Not Just a Pretty Facade

As well as looking pretty sweet, the swirling striped pattern visible on the exterior has a structural point to it too, the result of the building’s energy-saving system, which allows air to flow up through spiraling wells.


Towering Industry

Over 35km of steel was used to construct the Gherkin. 10 years later, we’re steel impressed!


A Bit of History 

The building was designed by famed architect Norman Foster of the Foster and Partners architectural firm. The Foster and Partners firm has worked on such renowned buildings as the renovated Reichstag in Berlin, London City Hall, and Wembley Stadium. They are known for their innovative approach to design that stands out particularly well against the more conservative nature of most of London’s buildings.

Design and Construction

The Gherkin is essentially an elongated, curved, shaft with a rounded end that is reminiscent of a stretched egg. It is covered uniformly around the outside with glass panels and is rounded off at the corners. It has a lens-like dome at the top that serves as a type of observation deck.

The design of the Gherkin is heavily steeped in energy efficiency and there are a number of building features that enhance its efficiency. There were open shafts built in between each floor that act as ventilation for the building and they require no energy for use. The shafts pull warm air out of the building during the summer and use passive heat from the sun to bring heat into the building during the winter. These open shafts also allow available sunlight to penetrate deep into the building to cut down on light costs. It has been said that 30 St. Mary Axe uses only half of the energy that a similarly-sized tower would use.

Image result for the gherkin


The beginning of the Gherkin’s birth starts in 1992 as an explosion rocked the financial district of London. The Provisional IRA detonated an explosive device near the Baltic Exchange and catastrophically injured the building. The building was torn down and city officials decided to put a larger tower in its place.

The Gherkin began as a much larger building that was dubbed the “Millennium Tower” but which failed to materialise. The original design of the building raised fears that it could negatively impact air traffic from Heathrow. There were also concerns that it may interfere with the sight-lines of St. Paul’s Dome from certain parts of the city. Once the original design was shot down, Norman Foster created the scaled-down version that now sits at 30 St Mary Axe.

Construction began in 2001 and the Gherkin was finished in December of 2003. It didn’t open for the public until almost half of a year later.


Current Use

Today, the Gherkin is primarily an office building. It is the headquarters of many large companies including Swiss Re and some of the offices of Sky News. Some very popular television shows and radio shows are filmed here or near this building today.



Us Londoners aren’t the only ones fond of The Gherkin – its unique and bold design has won it many awards including the Stirling Prize, the London Region Award, and the Emporis Skyscraper Award.


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