BUILDING THE GHERKIN
2005, 52 minutes
Purchase: $310 Classroom Rental: $125
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Can a single building impact the career of an architect, the image of a global company and the future of a major city? Building the Gherkin chronicles the design, planning and construction of the controversial Swiss Re building, an ‘ecological skyscraper' designed by renowned British architect Norman Foster.
Just a month and a day after the World Trade Center attack in New York, the first steel beam of 30 St Mary Axe (as its officially known) was erected in London on a site that had seen two previous IRA bombings. One question was on everyone's mind: was it the right time and place to build a new iconic tower?
Sparking further controversy was the building's design. Meant to address spatial, environmental, and social concerns, its unique design was so radical that it quickly became the target of ridicule in the British press, earning its nickname, ‘the erotic gherkin.'
Building the Gherkin is a fascinating documentary that covers the four-and-a-half year development period. Documenting everything from the initial blueprint design to the give-and-take between client and architect to the furnishing of the workspace, the film provides an essential, rarely-presented, overview of the entire architectural process.
So has the Gherkin become the landmark they all dreamt of? Since its completion in 2004, the building has won a number of prestigious architecture awards, and was voted the most admired new building in the world by fellow architects. But perhaps more importantly, the Gherkin has punctured the zeitgeist. It has been prominently featured in two Hollywood films (Woody Allen's Match Point and Basic Instinct 2), a comic book, a video game, and has even been blown up by aliens in a popular British science-fiction television series.
Subjects & Collections
Festivals & Awards* Winner, Best Reportage, International Festival of Films on Art, Montreal, 2006
* Official Selection, London Architecture Biennale, 2006
* Official Selection, DokFest, Munich, 2006
Reviews“A superb documentary! Mirjam von Arx’s Building the Gherkin is exactly what its title implies: a 52-minute film tracing the construction of Norman Foster’s bulbous London masterpiece… What makes it enthralling is that the process is seen from the inside.” - Richard Morrison, The Times (UK)
“[3 Stars] Director Von Arx has great fun capturing the media's response to what a newscaster dubbed ‘the greatest gherkin in Christendom.’ …Erecting a brave new building came to be seen as an act of defiance, and the architecture's imaginative elegance a rebuke to terrorist intolerance… Von Arx’s film makes a persuasive case that while companies put buildings up, it’s the public that owns them.” – Boston Globe
"Architecture seen as it's practised: design, problem-solving and diplomacy." - The Art Newspaper
“This film would be very useful for beginning architecture students being introduced to the process by which a building goes from design to occupation. However, the skillful way in which the construction process is made a human story, makes the film suitable for a much wider audience. The technical quality of the film is very good. Particularly striking are the views of the London skyline and the time lapse sequences showing the construction of the building. Recommended.” - Educational Media Reviews Online
“This well-made DVD is recommended for comprehensive architecture collections.” – Library Journal
"Mishaps and triumphs, clashes and elation, close-up." - Architectural Digest