Open House London 2013: The Gherkin / 30 St Mary Axe

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30 St Mary Axe © Searcys

Since its topping out ceremony in December 2003, 30 St Mary Axe has become one of London’s defining landmarks. Better known as “The Gherkin”, the 41-storey tower stands in the heart of The City of London and is home to 33 floors of office space and, at the top, one of the most spectacular rooms in the capital.

The Gherkin is a landmark in every sense: it is visible from across the city, and is one of our most immediately recognisable buildings. Designed by Lord Foster, the tower won the 2004 Stirling Prize for Architecture and continues to be praised almost 10 years later, even if new neighbours such as Heron Tower and The Leadenhall Building have climbed even higher.

Last weekend the public was allowed in to this usually private space as part of Open House London, the annual architectural showcase that opens the doors to more than 700 of the city’s finest spaces, be they public, private or just hidden away.

gherkin-lens © Tom ButlerFor the Gherkin, the focus was on the domed room on the top floor, famous for its unimpeded 360-degree views of the city. This incredible space is part of London’s highest private members’ club run by Searcy’s, who also operate St Pancras Grand Restaurant and Oyster Bar, home to Europe’s longest Champagne bar.

Even despite a glass of fizz, the three hour wait was worth it. From the 180m vantage point, the capital extends all the way to the horizon while the City’s other towers are tangibly close. All of London is here, from Battersea Power Station to Canary Wharf, while the River Thames crops up in surprising places. Another surprise is the “lens”, the mini dome at the building’s very top, and the only curved pane of glass in the whole building. That’s one out of 7,429 pieces.

Of course, there are year-round opportunities to enjoy similar bird’s eye views of London, from The View from The Shard to the EDF Energy London Eye. If it’s the inside of the Gherkin you’re after, you could consider joining the members club, or maybe hire the space for a once in a lifetime Gherkin party… otherwise, just mark your diary for Open House London 2014 and join the queue. I’ll see you there.

Did you enjoy Open House London 2013? Share your experiences in the comments section below.