Urban Cinefile
"I think there is a piece of me that is very gypsy-esque and maybe one day I could write a book that says, 'and then she took off and now she's working in Uganda' - "  -Kim Basinger
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Monday September 16, 2019 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Just a month and a day after the disastrous attack on the World Trade Center in New York, the first steel beam of a new tower is erected in London. The question on everybody's mind is : is it the right time to build a new iconic tower in the midst of London's financial district - especially on a site that has been bombed before? The 40 storey steel and glass tower sparks further controversy. Norman Foster, one of Britain's most visionary architects, calls his design for the new Swiss Re London headquarters "radical - socially, technically, architecturally and spacially". Its size and shape are so radical that it is almost immediately named "the erotic gherkin". A chronicle from blueprint to construction.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
When the IRA bombed London's old Baltic Exchange in April 1992, it inadvertently created a suitable site for a new building. Just what insurance giant Swiss Re was looking for. Their new office building - certainly not a block - is the first tall building approved in the City of London in over 30 years.

Designed by Lord Foster, it was controversial and radical; the 41 storey building attracted passionate critics and passionate supporters. Initially dubbed 'the gherkin', a search for a suitable name found none. It's just known as 30 St Mary Axe - its street address. Those with a penchant for irony and a dark sense of humour might suggest that this is entirely appropriate, since the IRA had turned the site into a battle axe block prior to its new occupant.

Sarah Fox, New Buildings Director, Swiss Re has a sign outside her office: "Girls Kick Ass" so it's no surprise that she admits lacking charm, finesse and diplomacy. For all that, she managed to steer the project through to completion. This mostly fascinating, sometimes patchy documentary charts the progress of the project, its proponents and its visionary nature. The filmmaker has access to everyone and she does a great job of showing us the human side of the key players.

And most interestingly, Fox explains that this building could not have been built without computers doing the extraordinary calculations required for such high level of precision. The building opened for business on December 15, 2003 and the official opening party was held in May 2004. It is now one of the new icons of the London skyline, like the London Eye and the Renzo Piano tower - new buildings that look down on the old icons like Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge.

Published May 3, 2007

Email this article

Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

(Switzerland, 2005)

CAST: Documentary featuring Norman Foster, Sara Fox, Peter Wynn Rees, John R. Coomber, Ken Livingstone and others

PRODUCER: Kristian Widmer

DIRECTOR: Mirjam von Arx


EDITOR: Janet Taylor

MUSIC: Diego Baldenweg

RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes


SPECIAL FEATURES: Featurette; Behind the Scenes; Norman Foster in Conversation; Robin Partington's Architecture Masterclass

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Aztec International

DVD RELEASE: April 4, 2007

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2019