The Shard Reshapes London's Skyline

The Shard Reshapes London's Skyline

» Featured Columnists | By Steve Winston | January 18, 2013 8:30 AM ET

On Feb. 1, the face - and the pace - of London will change forever.
That's when "The Shard" officially opens to the public.
The Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe, its 1,016-foot elongated-pyramid-shape glass façade further transforming the once-staid London skyline. The Shard, however, is not just a building. It's a concept.
The concept, according to its architect, the renowned Renzo Piano, is to create a multi-use "vertical city," with prestigious offices, world-class restaurants, the 5-star Shangri-La Hotel (first one in the U.K.), the city's most exclusive residential address, and its highest observatory - The View from The Shard, with an open-air deck offering 360° panoramas of more than sixty miles.
There will be offices on floors 2-28; chic restaurants from 31-33; the Shangri-la on floors 34-52 (with a five-star rating, 200 rooms, restaurant, gym, and pool); residences on floors 53-65; and The View from 68-72. Although the building is 95, the Observatory will be the highest floor occupied. The top 18 floors will serve as a giant radiator, expelling the heat generated by the glass construction.
The Shard is in the heart of London, in London Bridge Quarter. The tube stop here, London Bridge Station, is traversed by 54 million people every year, using the underground, mainline, road and water taxis, buses, ferries, cycle and pedestrian routes. London's cultural and financial districts are only a few blocks away. And the Thames Path takes you past cultural icons like the Globe Theatre, Tate Modern, and the Southbank Centre.
"This is my vision," Renzo Piano says. "I foresee the tower as a vertical city, for thousands of people to work in and enjoy, and for millions to take to their heart."
Piano collaborated in the creation of the Pompidou Centre in Paris. According to the company developing The Shard, he got his inspiration for its design in 2000, while sketching on a menu during a lunch meeting about a new tower.  
Piano ran into criticism from an organization called English Heritage, who claimed the building would be "a shard of glass through the heart of historic London"...unwittingly endowing the building with its name. The architect, however, considered the slender, spire-like form of the tower a positive addition to the skyline, recalling the church steeples featured in historic engravings of the city. He proposed glazing that would emphasize angled glass panes reflecting sunlight and sky, changing the appearance of the building as the day progressed. And he incorporated 11,000 panes of glass.
Even before it opens to the public, though, The Shard has had some visitors. In December 2011, the self-styled "Place Hackers" evaded security and made their way to the top, climbing a crane to get there. They later posted photographs on the Internet.
In April 2012, it was revealed that numerous teams of "urban explorers" had climbed the building, and some had base-jumped from it numerous times. Four jumps were reportedly made by an Essex roofer, who had filmed one jump with a helmet-mounted camera. In November 2012, the French urban climber Alain Robert was spotted in the building by security guards. The Shard's owners had to go to court to get an injunction preventing him from entering or climbing the building. And, upon completing the building late last year, workers discovered a fox living on the top floor, who had apparently been surviving on their scraps of discarded lunch.
If you think you've been on exciting observation towers before...catch "The View From The Shard." From there, it seems as if all of southern England spreads out before you. 

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