30 St Mary’s Axe

London, United Kingdom


Foster and Partners

Interior Designer

Main Contractor

Nick Gutteridge

James Newton

Architecture + Environment

Affectionately known to the public as the “Gherkin”, few modern buildings have acquired such instant notoriety as 30 St Mary Axe.

Our design for the first ever eco-friendly tall building is a study in cleverly understated lighting that supports architectural intention, as well as helping to achieve sustainability goals.

For both environmental and aesthetic reasons we decided not to light the exterior of the tower. Instead, we studied the composition of light and dark glass that characterises the tower’s spiral form so that the diagram of the building would remain legible at night.

At ground level, we avoided the visual clutter of light poles, opting to allow an uninterrupted view of the building from across the plaza. In their place, we carefully lit the perimeter walls, trees, colonnade and lower structural elements so that when viewed from above the entire building is ringed by a halo of light.

Inside, daylight penetrates deep into the building plan from the spiral atria. To complement this, we used downlights within the main entrance at the perimeter only, keeping the ceiling clean and expressing the curving walls that lead to the lift lobbies.

In the office areas, we washed the core of the building with light on all levels, including the tenant spaces, to maintain a consistent approach. Uplighting to the soffits of the spiralling atria adds general light as well as helping to define the external image of the building.

Crowning the skyscraper is a great glazed dome that houses the restaurant and bar. Here, we kept the light tightly focused onto tables and directed onto the perimeter to create comfortable illumination without causing disturbing reflections on the glass that might interrupt the spectacular views.

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