30 St Mary Axe in London
30 St Mary Axe, the Swiss Re Building (colloquially referred to as the Gherkin), is a skyscraper in London's main financial district, the City of London, completed in December 2003 and opened at the end of May 2004. With 40 floors, the tower is 180 m tall,
The building is on the former site of the Baltic Exchange building, the headquarters of a global marketplace for ship sales and shipping information. On 10 April 1992 the Provisional IRA detonated a bomb close to the Exchange, severely damaging the historic Exchange building and neighbouring structures.
The UK government's statutory adviser on the historic environment, English Heritage, and the City of London governing body, the City of London Corporation, were keen that any redevelopment must restore the building's old façade onto St Mary Axe. The Exchange Hall was a celebrated fixture of the ship trading company.
After English Heritage later discovered the damage was far more severe than previously thought, they stopped insisting on full restoration, albeit over the objections of the architectural conservationists who favoured reconstruction. Baltic Exchange sold the land to Trafalgar House in 1995. Most of the remaining structures on the site were then carefully dismantled, the interior of Exchange Hall and the façade were preserved, hoping for a reconstruction of the building in the future. (it was this proposed building in 1996 that first attracted the "erotic gherkin" nickname later applied to the one actually erected). This plan was dropped after objections for being totally out-of-scale with the City of London and anticipated disruption to flight paths for both City and Heathrow airports;
Since its completion, the building has won a number of prestigious awards for architecture. In October 2004, the building was awarded the 2004 RIBA Stirling Prize. For the first time in the prize's history, the judges reached a unanimous decision. In December 2005, a survey of the world's largest firms of architects published in 2006 BD World Architecture 200 voted the tower as the most admired new building in the world. The building also featured in recent movies such as Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Sharon Stone's Basic Instinct 2 and Woody Allen's Match Point and, rechristened the Spirit of London, became the spaceship centrepiece of Keith Mansfield's 2008 novel Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London.
Since February 2010, Sky News has broadcast its flagship business programme, Jeff Randall Live, from a studio in the building.
In September 2006, the building was put up for sale with a price tag of GB£600 million. Potential buyers included British Land, Land Securities, Prudential, ING and the Abu Dhabi royal family. On 21 February 2007, IVG Immobilien AG and UK investment firm Evans Randall completed their joint purchase of the building for GB£630 million, making it Britain's most expensive office building.<ref name=build/>
- Landmarks of London
- List of tallest structures in London
- St Mary Axe
- Heron Tower, the tallest building in the City of London as of 2009.
- Tower 42, the second tallest skyscraper in the City of London as of 2009
- Willis Building, another of Norman Foster's buildings
- Torre Agbar, a similar-shaped building in Barcelona
- Norman Foster's site about the project — including Quicktime movies illustrating the design process.