SGG Parsol at Swiss Re, London
The Swiss Reinsurance Company Limited – also known as Swiss Re, 30 St Mary Axe, and Gherkin - is a classic example of contemporary architecture. Its impressive glass facade is visible from a long distance, as much as 32 kms away. Structured in the shape of a cigar, the 41-storey skyscraper was built in 2004 after a modern glass and steel design by the architectural firm, Foster and Partners. The construction was commissioned by Swiss Re and hence it was originally christened as the Swiss Re Building. Later, this piece of contemporary architecture was renamed to its street address 30 St. Mary Axe after Swiss Re sold the building in 2007. Even before its construction was complete, Londoners referred to the building as the 'Gherkin' for its unique shape. To date, it is popularly known by that name. Making its presence felt as a modern building amidst the historic area of London, the Swiss Re building is a pioneer for the growing number of high-rises across the city's skyline. Its modern architecture comprises a cigar-shaped structure that has a steel frame with circular floor plans and a glass facade with diamond-shaped panels. The swirling striped pattern visible on the exterior is the result of the building's energy-saving system which allows the air to flow up through spiraling wells.
Saint-Gobain Glass has supplied SGG Parsol for use across the Swiss Re building. As an epitome of contemporary architecture, the building uses energy-saving methods which allow it to use half the power that a similar tower would typically consume. Gaps in each floor create six shafts that serve as a natural ventilation system for the entire building. The shafts create a giant double glazing effect; air is sandwiched between two layers of glazing and insulates the office space inside. The shafts pull warm air out of the building during the summer and warm the building in the winter using passive solar heating. The shafts also allow sunlight to pass through the building, making the work environment more pleasing, and keeping the lighting costs down. A body tinted coloured glass made from the float process, SGG Parsol's solar control properties greatly helped in achieving these advantages. The significance of Swiss Re's contemporary architecture design is best exemplified by the number of awards it has won. In 2004, the architect was awarded the 2004 RIBA Stirling Prize, making it the first time in the prize's history that the judges reached a unanimous decision. In 2005, a survey of the world's largest firms of architects published in 2006 BD World Architecture 200 voted the tower as the most admired new building in the world. It has also won the London Region Award and the Emporis Skyscraper Award. Bought for a whopping 630 million pounds in 2007, it became Britain's most expensive office building. And remains one of the most stunning examples of modern architecture that the world will ever know.