You won’t find the world’s largest gherkin (cornichon) in a carnotzet in the Valais. It’s in London.
Ask any local: Where’s the gherkin? and they will point you in the direction of the East End, once a down-trodden, working-class area of inner London.
This cornichon géant is 180 metres high and has 41 floors. It has always had strong links with Switzerland. The Gherkin was commissioned by Swiss Re, the insurance giant, which today occupies half the building’s offices.
The building was originally named after its address, 30 St Mary Axe, but once the droll Brits laid eyes on it, The Gherkin was born. It’s a name not out of place in a skyline that features The Cheese Grater, the Walkie Talkie and The Shard.
The Gherkin is now owned by banker Joseph Safra, head of the J. Safra Group, which owns the Geneva-based private bank, Bank J Safra Sarasin.
Mr Safra is not an architecturally shy man. He commissioned Norman Foster, the architect/designer of The Gherkin, to design another botanical skyscraper to be planted right next to his gherkin in his East End garden plot.
You may ask yourself: What would complement a gherkin and a cheese grater in a garden of metal, concrete and glass?
The answer, in this case, is a tulip. Yes, plans for the The Tulip, a fantastic 305-metre-high flower tower, are currently being scrutinised by London planning authorities. The Tulip, if approved, will grow to the height of London’s tallest building, the impressive The Shard (éclat de verre).
The Tulip is amazing. It’s already iconic and the seed, or should I say bulb, has only just been planted. It is as controversial as it is high. Depending on your cultural sensibilities, The Tulip is a giant cotton bud (un coton-tige), a penis-in-the-sky (not an unusual description of a skyscraper), a cocktail cornichon on a very long toothpick, science fiction art come-to-life or simply an extraordinary piece of architecture that will be the flower of London’s skyline.
You can judge for yourself from this video, which would not be out-of-place in the opening scene of Star Wars Episode 11.
The Tulip is not for office space. It is an elaborate viewing tower, which seems to be a must-have for all self-respecting world cities nowadays. It will offer a popular high for millions of the planet’s tourists. Everything happens in the flower. The concrete stem (tige) supports a 12-storey glass bubble or flower which will be filled with bars, restaurants and a viewing gallery. It is also being touted as a free educational facility open to the school students, which may boost its chances of getting final approval.
Popular opinion seems to be blowing in the flower’s favour. In a recent survey, most Londoners said they were happy to see a tulip on the skyline. Spring is in the air.
You can read more on The Tulip website here.