Architect and historian Jonathan Massey is Dean of Architecture at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. His prior experience includes a Master of Architecture degree at UCLA and practice experience in Los Angeles, undergraduate and doctoral degrees from Princeton, and teaching at several schools including Syracuse University, where he served as Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence, led the Bachelor of Architecture program, and chaired the University Senate. The author of Crystal and Arabesque: Claude Bragdon, Ornament, and Modern Architecture (2009) and co-author of Governing by Design: Architecture, Economy, and Politics in the 20th Century (2012), Massey has published numerous articles and chapters addressing the ways architecture builds civil society, shapes social relationships, and manages consumption. A co-founder of the Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative, he has lectured widely and held fellowships from the Centre for Canadian Architecture, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and other institutions.
Reproduced countless times in a wide range of media since its completion in 2004, 30 St. Mary Axe is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. Known colloquially as the Gherkin for its resemblance to a pickle, or as the Swiss Re building, after its initial owner and major occupier, this office tower has become an icon of London and an exemplar of best practice in sustainable design. This essay draws on observation, research, and interviews to show that the unique design and iconic power of 30 St. Mary Axe emerged in part by addressing the ways we imagine the risks associated with climate change, terrorism, and globalization. Once a technical concept specific to maritime insurance, risk has become a prominent framework for governance in contemporary society. By engaging salient risk imaginaries, the building mediated changes in the spatial form, economy, regulation, and culture of the City of London, the financial district at the heart of the British capital. Examining 30 St. Mary Axe as a building made not only of steel and glass but also of risk, the article shows how architecture shapes and is shaped by our changing modes of governance.
****All interested are welcome****