St Andrew’s Undershaft and the erotic gherkin


In a narrow lane called St Mary Axe, in the heart of the City of London, you’ll see St Andrew Undershaft – a pre-Great Fire of London church that, despite being hemmed in by the skyscrapers around it, still retains an air of calm. It also has a tiny, delightful garden that would be equally at home in the English countryside as in this busy financial district.

Just yards away, providing a delicious contrast, is the distinctive Swiss Re building, affectionately known as the ‘erotic gherkin’. This fabulous edifice, nearly 600 feet tall, was completed just a few years back in 2003.

From the moment the building was proposed by architect Norman Foster it caused controversy but City workers as a whole – and Londoners in general – have now embraced the building as an integral and important part of the capital. At night in particular, it is a stunning addition to the City skyline.

The gherkin is covered by some 24,000 square metres of glass – the equivalent of five rugby pitches – and because of the building’s bulbous, spiralling shape, each pane of glass is slightly different. Each window was drawn by computer, numbered and delivered – in the right order – to the site.

The building sits on the site of the former Baltic Exchange, which was blown up by members of the IRA in 1992. Photo by

Find out more about the gherkin on our City of London tour. Click here for more information

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