St Mary Axe, 30 from Mile End Road

Above: Looking in a westerly direction along Mile End Road at the Gherkin (Click image to enlarge to 1024×640).

When 30 St Mary Axe was being constructed, many members of the public took a real interest in watching the large curved structure take shape. The start of the work was to erect a steel framework that was the same shape. After that, the enormous number of panes of glass were put in place. The framework was so large that it could be seen from many places on high ground around London – including Hampstead, Highgate and Chislehurst. It was rather like watching some enormous animal skeleton being constructed.

Once it had been completed in 2003, many people took great pleasure in photographing the ‘new kid on the block’ as they turned a corner and suddenly glimpsed a new perspective with what everybody was calling ‘The Gherkin’. Being so tall, if the street that you viewed it from pointed towards the building, it gave the impression to the observer that it was at the end of that street. In many cases, the Gherkin was something like a mile or more further back from the far end of that street.

Leading from the City of London is a long straight thoroughfare that runs almost NE towards Essex. Each part of the road has different names – Aldgate High Street, Whitechapel High Street, Whitechapel Road, Mile End Road and Bow Road before crossing the River Lea and continuing through Outer London. This picture was taken on Mile End Road, just outside Stepney Green Underground Station which is to the right near the red telephone box. Mile End Road runs through a small area of London called Mile End – because it stood one mile from Aldgate, which was once one of the City gates. This information, therefore, explains to anyone who does not know that the view was taken well over a mile away from the Gherkin itself. The long road is one of the main routes into the City and is often choked with heavy traffic. One of the reasons for taking the picture – apart from the obvious – was that the road had particularly light traffic on it that day. There are times when the view would be obstructed by large articulated lorries and London’s double-decker buses so it was of interest that the view was so clear of everything other than small vehicles. With all the trees lining the road, in the distance, you might think that Mile End Road was a rather pleasant place when the reality would be rather different.


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