As part of the Open House weekend I finally managed to make it into 30 St Mary Axe, informally known as the Gherkin.
This is by far the most popular building of the event, but only because it is one of the non-balloted buildings with a view. The only reason I can see why people queue for entry (and believe me, they queue) is to see the 360 degree views of London that you get from the top. I gather that the people who run this feel that visitors only care about the view also, as there was nothing by way of information on the actual architecture, not even a simple fact sheet with details on the building. The volunteers helping knew nothing of the number of people who work in the building, or why we had to change lifts 34 floors up as we were heading to the 39th floor (the fact the bar is on the top floor and allows 360 views is because the lift mechanics are not stored there as they would be in most buildings. Instead, there is a regular lift to the 34th floor, and then from there upwards there is a ‘push’ lift where all of the mechanics are at the bottom of the lift rather than above).
I arrived at this location at 8am, knowing that there may be a slight queue to get in. Two and a half hours later I was finally in, just as the rain came down. Was it worth the wait? No.
Perhaps I’ve been spoilt by views of London in the past, but this one was somewhat lacking. Having stood on the roof of neighbouring Heron Tower, and the likes of King’s Reach, I very much expect a view to be as unobstructed as possible. I get there is to be glass, but I want to be able to push up against that to shoot through it – not possible with this building. The design of the building meant that attempting to shoot away from the glass always had the window frames in view, plus the angle of the glass along with rain meant the light wasn’t quite hitting it as I wanted. In short, yes there are great views to be had from the top – but it’s purely an experience and if you want to go there for photography I feel there are simply better places to go. Added to this is that they certainly rushed you in and out, understandable with so many people waiting to get it, but only 5 minutes at the top is not worth the wait to get in there…for me anyway.
I don’t think I would consider going here again in future years unless they turned it to a ballot entry and actually gave you both time and information about the place, there are much better buildings to spend your time on otherwise.
So the image above is from the very top – 40 floors up, and is looking up towards the dome. Not as interesting as looking up at, say, the British Museum roof, but nice enough anyway.