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Iconic architecture comes under the microscope as the gherkin goes on sale - image

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Questions over the affordability of so-called 'iconic architecture' are set to emerge over the next few days following news that the 'erotic gherkin' is up for sale.

The owner of 30 St Mary Axe, insurance giant Swiss Re, has put Norman Foster's famous building on the market for approximately £600m.

While wildly successful in architectural terms, it has not been a shining beacon of profitable property investment. Until just 12 months ago, 22 of the building's 40 floors had not been let.

Since completion the failure to lease out the majority of the floor space has bedevilled the building. Many have observed that the top eight storeys have floor plates that are too small to be used practically by most major corporations.

The news that Swiss Re has had enough of owning the Stirling Prize-winning building will make developers think twice before investing in other similar schemes.

One observer said that developers were increasingly wary of having an 'albatross round the neck' like the gherkin.

'People realise that there is a higher risk involved in investing in buildings like 30 St Mary Axe and are cynical about whether they will provide the higher returns,' he said.

The problem of letting the building's office space is not going to make the sale easy and it remains to be seen if it will beat the £527 million paid for Plantation Place when British Land recently sold it.

by Ed Dorrell

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