Thames Pathway

Journal of a Walk Down the River Thames

by Keith Pauling

The Gherkin

The Tower of London is almost invisible in the London skyline. Looking across the water the eyes focus on the outline of one of London’s newest and best loved buildings. Catch the sun at the right angle and it sparkles across the city.

The Gherkin
The Gherkin

The official address is 30 St Mary Axe; unofficially everyone calls it “The Gherkin”. Why “Gherkin” took hold is something that is no doubt typical of the way certain names catch on with the English. A very witty suggestion was “The Crystal Phallus” but that got nowhere, so calling it after its first major occupant and naming it the “Swiss Re Tower” was a definite non-starter. Some wag somewhere in London said in typical Cockney fashion “Nah mate, looks like a gherkin to me, John” and the name stuck.

The Gherkin stands on the site of the old Baltic Exchange. After several attempts at obtaining permission for different designs to replace the old building in the City, it was finally decided to go for Lord Foster’s spectacular symmetrical tower.

There are forty floors with an area of over half a million square feet. (516,100 sq ft, 47,950 sq metres). It reaches 591 ft (180m) into the sky, making it the sixth highest building in the capital. Its surface is covered with 24,000 square metres of glass, equivalent to five football pitches. Swedish contractors Skanska took three years to build it, and it was opened in May 2004.

Turning to face downstream from the bridge I can see London’s tallest buildings that are going to dominate the skyline during the remainder of my walk, the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf.

The Canary Wharf Skyline
The Canary Wharf Skyline

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