Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Some Just Know It As 30 St. Mary Axe

London's most distinctive latter-day building is known as the Gherkin, or sometimes, Erotic Gherkin, and has been featured here a few times before, mostly from our vantage point up in Highgate. This afternoon, we took an "A Christmas Carol" themed London Walk (one of the best tourist values in London) to celebrate Boxing Day. Our guide was full of stories, many of which had nothing to do with the novel or Dickens. The best had to do with an alternate name for the Gherkin. But first, a little London history.

In 1851, London hosted the first World's Fair, known as the Great Exhibition. Now I'll let Wikipedia do a little talking.
The Crystal Palace was an iron and glass building originally erected in London's Hyde Park to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. More than 14,000 exhibitors from around the world were gathered inside to display examples of the latest technology developed in the Industrial Revolution. Designed by Joseph Paxton, the Great Exhibition building was 1,850 feet in length (560 m) and 110 feet (33 m) tall.

After the exhibition the building was moved to Upper Norwood where it was enlarged, and stood from 1854 until 1936. It attracted many thousands of visitors from all levels of society. The name Crystal Palace was coined by the satirical magazine Punch. The name was later used to denote this area of south London and the park that surrounds the site, home of the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.

The Crystal Palace burned down in 1936.

Now, returning to the present, the architect who built the Gherkin, Norman Foster, also built the new London city hall, which, because of its shape, earned the name "The Glass Testicle" after its completion in 2002. Upon seeing the completion of the Foster's work on the Gherkin two years later, the same wags who gave the London city hall its off-color name decided that "The Crystal Phallus" was fitting.

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Blogger Middle Kid said...

How could an iron and glass building "burn down?" I would suppose it might melt, if the flames were hot enough.

7:56 PM  
Blogger oldest kid said...

I think the insides burned, and the glass shattered. I read an article on the building a while back...

4:50 AM  
Blogger Smitty Werbenmanjensen said...

There's also a great story about how the street St. Mary Axe got its name. But perhaps I'll save it for another time.

6:14 AM  

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