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Flying Gherkin children's book by Foster + Partners

Flying Gherkin stars in Foster + Partners' children's book

UK architecture studio Foster + Partners has made an illustrated online book starring its Gherkin skyscraper as part of an initiative to entertain children during the coronavirus pandemic.

Named The Flying Gherkin, the book gives the Foster + Partners-designed office human features, arms and a rocket-like body, and follows it on its journey as it takes off from London to visit other buildings designed by the studio around the world.

The book, which is available to download online, was written by Mrinal Rammohan, designed by Sam Strudwick and illustrated by Catarina Rao as part of the studio's #architecturefromhome initiative.

Flying Gherkin children's book by Foster + Partners

In the first chapter of the illustrated book, the Gherkin – which is officially called 30 St Mary Axe – discusses the quietness of London's streets due to the pandemic with other buildings in central London, including St Paul's Cathedral and the Leadenhall Building, also known as the "Cheesegrater".

As it was not being used, the Gherkin decides that it is the perfect time for a holiday. It learns to fly and takes off to visit other Foster + Partners-designed buildings across the globe.

Flying Gherkin children's book by Foster + Partners

"The story traces the journey of a rebellious building who, by sheer willpower and determination, discovers a unique ability to fly," explained Katy Harris, senior partner at Foster + Partners.

"It uses this power to meet its old friends and make new ones across the globe. We felt this narrative could help us introduce our buildings to a much younger audience during the lockdown," she told Dezeen.

"Using one of our buildings as the primary protagonist and giving each of the buildings it visits a unique voice and character, we aimed to showcase the role buildings play in the cities they inhabit."

Flying Gherkin children's book by Foster + Partners

The studio chose the Gherkin as the protagonist for the stories due to its ground-breaking nature. The skyscraper, then known as the Swiss Re Building, opened in April 2004 and won the Stirling Prize for the best UK building in the same year.

"The Gherkin simply fits the bill perfectly," said Harris.

"At the time it was conceived, the Gherkin was a pioneering building both in terms of its physical form as well as its environmental agenda," she continued.

"The character embodies the spirit of the original building by refusing to follow accepted wisdom that buildings can't fly!"

Flying Gherkin children's book by Foster + Partners

The book's second chapter sees the Gherkin visit the Millau Viaduct bridge in France, which was designed at the same time as the London skyscraper. Also completed in 2004, the structure is still the tallest bridge in the world.

In the remaining, as-of-yet unreleased, chapters of the book, the Gherkin will continue its journey around the world and visit more of the studio's buildings.

Flying Gherkin children's book by Foster + Partners

"There are four episodes in total," explained Harris. "In the two episodes released so far, the Gherkin has discovered a unique ability to fly and visited its old friend MV in France," she continued.

"We don't want to reveal too much about the remaining plot, but let's just say that it does a full loop around the world over the next two episodes. Stay tuned to find out!"

Flying Gherkin children's book by Foster + Partners

Foster + Partners created the book as part of its #architecturefromhome initiative, which aims to entertain and educate children during the coronavirus pandemic.

"The #architecturefromhome initiative was put together to engage children with their built environment, as an extension of the workshops and events we hold regularly," explained Harris.

"Buildings are a fundamental part of life, providing one of the most basic needs: shelter," she continued. "For many kids, the first drawings they make are of an archetypical house with a pitched roof, a door and two windows."

"By humanising these buildings, we can make them more accessible and memorable for kids, who may recognise them and their unique characteristics the next time they see the buildings in real life."

As part of the initiative the studio released a series of 10 architectural challenges for children that included building a paper skyscraper and creating a city.

Project credits:

Writer: Mrinal Rammohan
Illustrator: Catarina Rao
Graphic designer: Sam Strudwick

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Flying Gherkin children's book by Foster + Partners
Flying Gherkin children's book by Foster + Partners
Flying Gherkin children's book by Foster + Partners