Another entry in our series of Iconic Glass Structures is 30 St. Mary Axe in London. This 41-story commercial building is located in the financial district. Designed by architect Norman Foster and built by Skanska, the building was opened in 2004 on the site of two former buildings that were razed after being badly damaged by an IRA bomb. The building was originally designed for insurance firm Swiss Re, but today it serves a number of diverse tenants.
30 St. Mary Axe, named after the building’s address, is informally known as The Gherkin because of its distinctive shape. The building, which has a circular floor plan, tapers as it rises, and appears to come to a point. The building’s curved appearance is deceptive. The glass panels on the outside are all flat, with a single exception at building’s top. It is extremely energy efficient. Its unique design provides natural ventilation and natural lighting, and incorporates passive solar heat in the winter.
30 St. Mary Axe has won numerous architectural awards and quickly became an iconic landmark in London. The building was sold in 2014 to its current owners for 700 million pounds, making it the most expensive commercial property in London. A number of highly visible clients lease space in the building. In addition, the building provides space for retailers and restaurants.
30 St. Mary Axe has more than 150,000 square feet of office and retail space. Unlike many commercial designs, 30 St. Mary Axe does not rely on central columns for internal support. This allows the office spaces to incorporate open floor plans. The 40th floor of the building hosts a bar with 360° views of the city.
With all tall buildings, wind can cause them to sway. To control sway, many buildings employ braces or dampers to counteract forces generated by the wind. The design of 30 St. Mary Axe makes it sufficiently stiff to resist wind-induced sway, so the building does not have any additional bracing or dampers to control wind movement.
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Photo Credit: Aurelien Guichard , via Flickr.com