St Mary Axe, 30 from Lower Road

Above: Looking towards the City of London in Lower Road (Click image to enlarge to 1024×640).

When the unusual offices called 30 St Mary Axe – better known to most people as ‘The Gherkin’ – were completed in 2003,  there something about the design that nearly everyone in London thought was novel. Unlike many of the modern tower blocks, the public seemed to like the building and postcards of the City often show the building along with buildings like Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. In September 2004, when the building was opened to the public during the annual ‘Open Weekend’, many people braved a four-hour wait to gain access by lift to the viewing gallery at the top. At that time, the Gherkin was one of the few high-rise offices in the City and views from the top were almost uninterrupted in every direction.

Since then, further even higher offices have been built and its views are becoming more and more restricted as the years go by. One other strange feature of the building also became apparent. As the picture above shows, the building – designed by Foster and Partners and rising to 591 feet (180 m) – is so tall that when viewed from a street that just happens to ‘point towards’ it the building appears as if it stands at the end of that street.

Lower Road, which runs almost SE and crosses the boundary of the London Boroughs of Southwark and Lewisham, is relatively close to the City of London and also happens to be ‘in-line’ with the Gherkin. By looking towards the City, any tall buildings stand out against the skyline. The taller they are, the closer they appear to the observer. This picture was taken in 2009 when there were less tall buildings clustered together in the City. The Gherkin is starting to be obscured by its near neighbours as offices rise even further into the sky. As it happens, the SE aspect of the Gherkin is unlikely to be obscured, due to planning regulations which limit further tall buildings to the south of the Gherkin but from other directions, it is certainly becoming ‘lost’ among the even taller blocks being erected.


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