The
first case study to be discussed is the 30 St Mary Axe office skyscraper in
London, more commonly known as the “Gherkin tower”, by Foster + Partners’. The
40-storey building with a height of 180m, uses the first stage of biomimicry, the
organisms’ level.
The reason for this is because the design has taken inspiration from the form
of a sea sponge (see fig. E) and how it’s structurally shaped. Foster is
considered to have introduced “London’s first ecological tall building”1– Gherkin
tower was built in 2003. The design is influenced by the structure of the Venus
flower basket glass sponge2 (Euplectella aspergillum). The glass
sponge features a “strong, cylindrical, lattice-like exoskeleton”3 which allows
the organism to flex under stress without damage the core lattice, while its cylindrical
form helps to reduce these forces. The sea sponge is made of complex assembly
of siliceous spicules that are connected in a continuous system forming a
tapered lattice tube4. Moreover,
due to the spicules, this underwater creature traps natural ambient light and
appears glassy. All these properties of the glass sponge are apparent in the
design of the tower. The concept was to create a high-rise structure that would
allow maximum public realm spaces at street level while offering natural light
and ventilation into the floors above. To achieve this, Foster designed a circular
plan that widens as it increases in height. Every level has open gaps creating six
shafts for natural ventilation and light penetration. The six shafts rotate
five degrees from the floor below or above, creating atrium spaces that spiral
up the building. These are used for refreshment areas and allow fresh air to enter
the office spaces evenly through triangulated openings on the façade. The exterior
is fully glazed and is composed of a double-skinned system that contains
venting flaps built into the triangulated glass. Gherkin is aerodynamically
designed to minimise the wind turbulence, also reducing the wind load on the
structure. The cylinder form that recall the glass sponge, enables wind to flow
around it easily when compared with a rectilinear tower, helping to create a
more comfortable setting at pedestrian level. Therefore, the building is
designed in a way that reliance on air-conditioning is reduced through open atriums
and by using passive solar heating in winter; reducing the buildings cost and energy
consumption.

 

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