30 St Mary Axe

30 St Mary Axe (previously known as the Swiss Re Building and informally known as the Gherkin is a commercial skyscraper in London's primary financial district, the City of London. It was completed in December 2003 and opened in April 2004. With 41 floors, it is 180 591 feet tall. 30 St Mary Axe was designed by  Norman Foster.  The building has become a recognizable landmark of London, and it is one of the city's most widely recognized.

Architecture and Construction

The building stands on the site of the former Baltic Exchange which was the headquarters of a global marketplace for shipping freight contracts and soft commodities, and the Chamber of Shipping (30–32 St Mary Axe). The tower's topmost panoramic dome, known as the "lens", recalls the iconic glass dome that covered part of the ground floor of the Baltic Exchange and much of which is now displayed at the National Maritime Museum. The  Gherkin nickname was applied to the current building at least as early as 1999, referring to the plan's highly unorthodox layout and appearance.


On 10 April 1992, the Provisional IRA detonated a bomb close to the Baltic Exchange, causing extensive damage to the historic building and neighboring structures. The United Kingdom government's statutory adviser on the historic environment, English Heritage and the City of London's governing body, the City of London Corporation,

 were keen that any redevelopment must restore the Baltic Exchange's old façade onto St. Mary Axe.  The Exchange Hall was a celebrated fixture of the shipping market. English Heritage then discovered that the damage was far more severe than initially thought, and they stopped insisting on full restoration, albeit over the objections of architectural conservationists. The Baltic Exchange and the Chamber of Shipping sold the land to Trafalgar House in 1995. Most of the remaining structures on the Baltic Exchange site were then carefully dismantled, and the interior of Exchange Hall and the façade were preserved, hoping for a reconstruction of the building in the future. The salvaged material was eventually sold for £800,000 and moved to Tallinn, Estonia, where it awaits reconstruction as the centerpiece of the city's commercial sector.

In 1996, Trafalgar House submitted plans for the London Millennium Tower,  a 1,266 feet building with more than 1,500,000 square feet of office space, apartments, shops, restaurants and gardens. This plan was dropped after objections that it was totally out-of-scale in the City of London, and anticipated disruption to flight paths for both London City and London Heathrow airports; the revised plan for a lower tower was accepted.

Planning and construction

John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, the granted planning permission on 23 August 2000 to construct a building on the site, which would be much larger than the old Exchange.[15] The site needed development, was not on any of the "sight lines" (planning guidance requires that new buildings do not obstruct or detract from the view of St Paul's Cathedral dome when viewed from a number of locations around London), and had housed the Baltic Exchange.

The plan for the site was to reconstruct the Baltic Exchange.  GMW Architects proposed a new rectangular building surrounding a restored exchange: it would have the type of large floor plan that banks liked. Eventually, the planners realized that the exchange was not recoverable, forcing them to relax their building constraints; they hinted that an "architecturally significant" building might obtain a favorable reception from City authorities.  This gave the architect a free hand in the design. The building was designed according to the client's needs, rather than for the needs of a large, capital-efficient, money-making building.

The new building's low-level plan satisfied the planning authority's desire to maintain London's traditional streetscape, with its narrow streets. The massing of the tower was not too imposing. Like Barclay's former city headquarters in Lombard Street, the idea was that the passer-by in neighboring streets would be nearly oblivious to the tower's existence until directly underneath it.

About the Architect

Norman Foster was born on June 1, 1935.  He is an English architect and designer. Closely associated with the development of high-tech architecture. Foster is recognized as a key figure in British modernist architecture. His architectural practice Foster  +  Partners  first founded in 1967 as Foster Associates, is the largest in the United Kingdom, and maintains offices internationally. He is the president of the Norman Foster Foundation, created to 'promote interdisciplinary thinking and research to help new generations of architects, designers and urbanists to anticipate the future'. The foundation, which opened in June 2017, is based in Madrid and operates globally.