- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
- Specialist wikis
Last edited 08 Oct 2020
30 St. Mary Axe
30 St. Mary Axe, widely known as ‘The Gherkin’, is a commercial office building in the heart of the City of London. Since its completion in December 2003, it has become one of the UK’s most distinctive buildings and a symbol of 21st century London.
In 1992, the Provisional IRA exploded a bomb close to the Baltic Exchange which previously stood on the site. The bomb caused substantial damage to the building façade, and despite the intentions of conservation groups such as English Heritage (now Heritage England), the decision was taken to dismantle the building to make way for a new development.
In 1996, Trafalgar House submitted their plans for a Millennium Tower skyscraper, which was abandoned due to concerns about the proposed height of 386 metres being out-of-scale with the City of London at the time.
 Design and construction
The design has a circular plan, that widens in profile as it rises and then tapers towards the top, giving it the distinctive ‘gherkin’ shape. However, despite the building’s curved glass shape, the only piece of curved glass is the cap at the very top.
The shape of the building reduces the need for reinforcement to stiffen the structure and resist wind loads. Diagonal braces at the perimeter mean the floor space inside the building is free from columns.
Norman Foster’s design was inspired by ideas developed in the 1970s by Buckminster Fuller for a Climatroffice, a concept for a building to have a free-form glass skin in which a microclimate could be sustained.
The building’s ‘diagrid’ structure, a grid of diagonally-interlocking steel elements, means that each successive floor is offset, creating a spiral atrium. Gaps in each floor act as a ventilation system. Warm air is vented out of the building during warm months and drawn into the building during cold months. The energy efficient design of the building means that its consumption is thought to be 50% lower than a typical skyscraper.
In April 2014, the building was put up for sale again, and in November 2014 was purchased by the Safra Group for £700 million.
With several commercial tenants, the building is only intermittently opened to the public. The top level dome (40th floor) houses a bar for tenants and their guests, and there is a restaurant on the 39th floor and private dining rooms on the 38th.
- Address: St. Mary Axe, London
- Construction period: 2001 – 2003
- Height: 180 m (591 ft)
- Floor count: 41
- Floor area: 47,950 m2 (516,100 sq ft)
- Architect: Foster and Partners
- Developer: Sellar Property Group
- Main contractor: Arup
- Notable prizes: Stirling Prize 2004, First Prize – Emporis Skyscraper Award 2003, London Architecture Biennale – Best New London Building, Civic Trust Award,
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- 20 Fenchurch Street.
- BT Tower.
- Buckminster Fuller.
- City Hall, London.
- Concept architectural design.
- Dancing House, Prague.
- Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao.
- Habitat 67.
- Leadenhall building.
- Lloyd's of London.
- Luxor Las Vegas.
- Nakagin Capsule Tower.
- NatWest Tower
- Norman Foster.
- SIS Building.
- The Shard.
- Tallest buildings in the world.
- Torre Agbar.
 External references
Featured articles and news
A brief description of time in the sun.
Given by ICE President Ed McCann.
Two new research reports published by APM.
50% off APM Associate membership for Designing Buildings users.
A commentary from the insurance perspective.
In brief with further links.
A definitive book on a pioneer of green architecture.
Using heritage as a catalyst for reviving historic centres.
Declaration prioritising sustainable urbanisation adopted.
Some brief words about the actuator.
After 34 years at the Institute.
To support the next generation of engineers.
CIAT reporting from the Competition and Markets Authority.
Making sustainable construction number one priority.
Interview with ECA CEO.
Many provisions came into force on June 28, 2022.
With room to expand.
Refurbishment, Energy Efficiency, Indoor air and process.
Aluminium Composite Panels (ACP) is one example.
Write about something you know, help us build and grow !