30 St Mary Axe is a commercial skyscraper in London’s primary financial district. It was once the headquarters of the Swiss Reinsurance Company. An unmistakable landmark on the London skyline, it is also the first skyscraper built with British capital ecological criteria. The tower is 180m (591ft) high and has 41 floors.
Built in 2004 it was originally known as the Swiss Re Building and later renamed to its street address 30 St. Mary Axe. Swiss Re sold the building in 2006 for £600m and later its buyers – a fund managed by Germany’s IVG Immobilien and UK private equity group Evans Randall – sold to a Brazilian billionaire Joseph Safra who bought if for over £700m. Even before its construction was completed, the Londoners had dubbed it as ‘Gherkin’ for its distinctive shape.
The cigar-shaped structure has a steel frame with circular floor plans and a glass facade with diamond-shaped panels. The swirling striped pattern visible on the exterior is the result of the building’s energy-saving system which allows the air to flow up through spiraling wells. On each floor, a series of interstices with six pipes made from natural ventilation system provides cooling in summer and heating in winter. These also allow easier entry of light resulting in lower lighting costs. Systematic control of internal microclimate and energy saving solutions has led to a 50% reduction in energy consumption.
The top of the tower, where visitors find an open hall covered by a glass conical dome, is even more spectacular. From here one can have spectacular view of the city. However, the building is not open to public.
Its unique, bold and energy efficient design won many awards including the Stirling Prize, the London Region Award, and the Emporis Skyscraper Award.