The Shard

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The shard, constructed between March 2009 and November 2012, is the tallest building in the UK, standing at an impressive 309.9 metres tall. Although a relatively new addition to the city, The Shard has already earned a place among the most iconoic of the structures visible along the London skyline.

Photo by Paul Hudson

The Architecture

The Shard was designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano whose other work includes The George Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Whitney Museum Of American Art in New York City. Pano took inspiration particularly from buildings that featured prominent spires. In an interview given during construction, Piano explained how he envisioned the building as appearing like a large spire emerging from the River Thames. When the design was revealed it was considered controversial in some corners, English Heritage believed it would be an eyesore in one of London’s most historic areas. Nevertheless, Piano persevered believing the beauty of the final project would lay to rest any lingering criticisms or concerns.

The building features some 11,000 panes of glass which are angled very precisely to reflect sunlight back into the sky. They also make the building appear different per the ambient whether conditions. In addition to its aesthetic beauty, The Shard was also one of the first London skyscrapers to be designed according to the US National Institute of Standards and Technology guidelines, which were compiled in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. This means that The Shard is particularly resilient to what are described as “particularly onerous conditions”.

Despite initial concerns about the nature of the project, The Shard has become one of London’s most instantly recognisable emblems, and in 2014 the building was awarded first prize in the Emporis Skyscraper Awards.

In the Building

The Shard hosts a variety of offices, hotel rooms and luxury apartments in addition to restaurants and bars. Among the more notable businesses operating from The Shard is the UK arm of the Qatari state broadcaster Al Jazeera.

The restaurants cater to a variety of cuisines from around the globe and combine modern design with an eye-catching décor and innovative contemporary British cuisine. The restaurants are situated throughout the building and each offers a different view over London, however the best view is to be had from the viewing platform near the top of The Shard.

The View From The Shard is a distinct company that offers trips to the top of the building and also organises the occasional abseil down the structure for charity.

Around the Building

The Shard is located in Southwark, in Central London, and is right next to the famous London Bridge. Also, nearby is the HMS Belfast for any military enthusiasts; the World War Two battleship has been converted in to a floating museum and the admission fee includes a guided tour. One of the few landmarks more iconic than The Shard, Tower Bridge, is also located nearby and for a small fee you can access the upper walkways for a spectacular view over the Thames. Borough Market is one of London’s most diverse markets with food from around the globe on offer as well as the usual organic produce offerings.

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