At the end of the Last Century, the european insurance conglomerate Swiss Re didn’t find a suitable space to group its operations in London’s financial district. It mandated world acclaimed architect Sir Norman Foster to solve the problem, which he did by proposing a building that would change the architectural paradigm, shifting from boxed like skyscrapers to a cigar shape which was popularly named the Gherkin. In the year 2000 the city of London granted the permit to construct it. It was occupied by Swiss Re’s employees in 2004. This is the famous documentary on its history “Building the Gherkin”.
If you liked this video watch the one on Zaha Hadid and the groundbreaking GuangZhou Opera House!
Watch here “Building the Gherkin”. Fast forward to minute 2 to skip the introduction.
Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd (German: Schweizerische Rückversicherungs-Gesellschaft AG), generally known as Swiss Re, is a Swiss reinsurance company. It is the world’s second-largest reinsurer, after having acquired GE Insurance Solutions. The company has its headquarters in Zurich. Founded in 1863, Swiss Re operates through offices in more than 25 countries.
Its London office is located in the award-winning 30 St Mary Axe tower, which opened on 25 May 2004. 30 St Mary Axe is London’s first environmentally sustainable tall building. Among the building’s most distinctive features are its windows, which open to allow natural ventilation to supplement the mechanical systems for a good part of the year.
The landmark London skyscraper, designed by architect Norman Foster and popularly known as ‘the gherkin’, was confirmed sold on 5 February 2007 for over £600 million (US$1.18 billion) to a group formed of IVG Immobilien AG of Germany and Evans Randall of Mayfair.
Foster was raised in Manchester in a working-class family and was intrigued by design and engineering from a young age. His years observing Mancunian architecture subsequently influenced his works, and was inspired to pursue a career in architecture after a treasurer clerk noticed his sketches and interest in Manchester’s buildings while he worked atManchester Town Hall.
Foster gained an internship at a local architect’s office before submitting a portfolio and winning a place at the University of Manchester School of Architecture. He subsequently won a scholarship to study at the Yale School of Architecture in the United States of America.
Foster returned to the United Kingdom in 1963 and set up a practice, Team 4 which became Foster + Partners. His breakthrough building was arguably the Willis Building in Ipswich in 1975 and he has since designed landmark structures such asWembley Stadium and 30 St Mary Axe. He is one of Britain’s most prolific architects of his generation. In 2009 Foster was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award in the Arts category.