May 21, 2004
The fake Gherkin and the real Gherkin

Recently I acquired a second hand copy of a book about and called Skyscrapers. It includes the illustration on the left, of my favourite, the Foster's London Gherkin, familiar to regulars here (which is why I chose this picture to illustrate my point). The picture is a bit blurry, which is my scanner not functioning properly rather than the original. And I fear that it may have taken rather a long time to load, so sorry if that was the case. (At present it's a .tif file. If anyone knows how to slim that down into something like a .jpg, comment accordingly please.)

gherfake2.jpg   GherReal.jpg

Anyway, my point is: the picture on the left is a faked up guess as to what the building was going to look like, which is what appeared in the book because when the book went to press the real thing hadn't been built yet. On the right is the real thing.

The difference in the shape is probably down to the weirdness of the lens on my camera. No, the difference that interests me is the way the inner structure dominates in the fake, while in the real thing, the glass surface dominates. And it's not just me. All the pictures I've seen of the finished article resemble my photo, in this particular respect.

It isn't as if this picture was just dashed off. A lot of work and thought obviously went into it. Yet, it is seriously misleading. It looks like a real building, in other words it is "realistic" enough to be misleading, in the absence of the real thing. In the book, there are lots of fake pictures of this kind, to the point where it is extremely difficult to determine which skyscrapers have actually been built and which ones remain on the drawing board. They should definitely state this item of information, and clearly. Not stating it at all means that I cannot recommend this book nearly as much as I would like to.

But that is a mere criticism of a book. The serious point here is how relentlessly difficult it is to know what a building is really going to look like, until it is built. Which is just one of many reasons why ... architecture is difficult.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 09:47 PM
Category: ArchitectureComputer graphics