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Opinion

Gremlins in the Gherkin

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The Gherkin might be London's most celebrated new building but it isn't popular with all those who work in it.

The Swiss Re headquarters, at 30 St Mary Axe, was a controversial replacement for the Baltic Exchange, bombed by the IRA in 1992. It has won architectural prizes and houses Swiss Re's 800 London staff under one roof for the first time.

But while Foster and Partners have been scooping awards for their space-age design, the people who have to work in it aren't so easily impressed. "The air conditioning doesn't work too well and I don't know whose bright idea it was to have perforated blinds over the windows," says one. "We have a real problem with the sun coming in."

The building was lauded for being eco-friendly by maximizing daylight and natural ventilation so that it uses half the energy normally required by an office block. Foster calls it "environmentally progressive", but it seems style came before substance in some instances.

And while the panoramic view over the City from the restaurant and bar at the top of the tower is spectacular, there are 20-odd floors below not filled by Swiss Re that have yet to be occupied.

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