A 'who done it' mystery has emerged on the Building Design website this week that even the combined wit of Miss Marple and Inspector Morse would struggle to solve before the end of a hour long episode.
The charge: Designing the Swiss Re Building, better known at the Gherkin.
Many people will casually suggest the culprit to be Sir Norman Foster, who likes his buildings all shiny and steely, like the suit of armour he was presented upon being knighted, so he definitely has form.
The Building Design article however is pointing out how many media publications, such as the Telegraph, the Guardian and the BBC, are pointing the finger at Ken Shuttleworth saying he did it whilst working for Foster. Presumably they hacked his answering phone and found a message left from the contractor.
The building design article is suggesting that Foster did it, but did not work alone, acting as Fosters and Partners. They also quote former Fosters director Robin Partington as denying Shuttleworth was the designer. A check of the Fosters and Partners website shows that they take claim for what happened on St. Mary Axe in 2003.
Interestingly, their description about the building gives no further clues about who the architects of the building where, but does give a small list of who gave outside help.
Further investigations to their website show a break down of the groups the Fosters organisation works as, and shows that the Swiss Re Building was carried out by Group 1 and breaks down those currently working in that group. This list makes no mention of Shuttleworth, fitting with Partington's alibi.
Possibly the most credible pointing of the finger comes from a project manager from RWG Associates who worked on the tower, Richard Griffiths, quoted in the BD article. He proposes:
“Ken did a sketch on a piece of tracing paper: the building was created by a team of very talented people employed by Foster & Partners, including Norman, engineers, construction people and, God forbid, cost consultants.”(This is why we need non-architects on projects, they deliver the common sense)
This is true of many large works by major architects, the companies Don, such as Foster, Zaha or Rogers sits in an armchair and mentions that they want some work doing. His soldato then set about seeing that this work is 'carried out'. The work is then attributed to the leader or the organisation, and the people who do the real work never get any real recognition other than a wage which is at a minuscule fraction of what the leader gets and maybe their name on the company website whilst they're with the company.
A big building like the Gherkin could never be completed by one person, yet we constantly receive this cover story and we never question it, we just accept it as truth and move on. Never giving a second thought for that poor second year student who sat in the corner of the studio, working out the schedules that allowed it to happen.
As for who really carried out the Swiss Re Building, I fear we may find out who Spring Heeled Jack was before we find that out.