The Shard Skyscraper, New London Tower Building, High-Rise Hotel Architecture

The Shard Building : London Skyscraper

London Hotel Tower Building, England, UK, design by Renzo Piano architect

page updated 6 Aug 2016 ; 30 Jun 2013

The Shard in London Award

CTBUH Names The Shard in London Best Tall Building in Europe 2013
CTBUH Awards 2013
The Shard London Tower
photo © Sellar Property Group
Highly distinctive towers in Canada, China, the UK and UAE have been named the best tall buildings in the world for 2013 by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH). The four regional winners include The Bow in Calgary, Canada (Americas); CCTV Headquarters in Beijing, China (Asia & Australia); The Shard, London (Europe); Sowwah Square, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (Middle East & Africa).

The Shard London

The Shard – a controversial achievement

Among many new architectural developments either under way or recently completed, Renzo Piano’s The Shard is definitely one of the most exciting and talked about. The architect’s dream – a vertical town – finally came true and what it adds to London’s landscape is not just the innovative pyramid shape. The Shard features offices, retail and residential spaces, the Shangri-La hotel group (the newest addition to the list of luxury London hotels) and, most importantly, public viewing galleries.

The Shard Tower The Shard Tower London The Shard London Tower
photos © Nick Weall

The viewing galleries, which occupy the top floors of The Shard (68th to 72nd) at an incredible height of 1,016ft (309,6 meters), making it the tallest building in Europe, are the most important part of the project to Piano himself. He was fully aware that the modernity of his design would face criticism, mainly due to the building potentially stealing the limelight from St Paul’s Cathedral and dominating not only the area it was built in but in fact the entire London skyline.

His counter-argument, however, was that even St Paul’s itself was once modern and towered over its surrounding buildings – many years had to pass before the Cathedral gained classic status. Piano is certain The Shard will also become a classic in the not-so-distant future and in order to make it truly blend into London’s landscape, he wanted Londoners to feel they belong to it and it belongs to them. Hence the spectacular views, reaching way beyond the capital, that the skyscraper has given to them to admire.

The Shard London Tower
photo © Nick Weall

However, what currently sparks the greatest arguments around the building is not the concern once raised by the English Heritage. The construction of The Shard was approved on the grounds that it met the criteria of ‘exceptional design’ (Piano is the 1998 laureate of the Pritzker Prize, considered to be the architectural equivalent of the Nobel Prize) and delivers excellent environmental credentials.

The biggest concern is that, at the moment, the building is off-limits to the average Briton. After the financial crisis of 2007, the funding to finalise the construction came from a consortium of Qatari investors. The ten flats located on floors 53 to 65 are on sale for between £30m and £50m and are not actually on the property market – there are only up to 50 possible buyers in the world and the estate agents will phone them directly.

The offices will reinforce the capital’s focus on financial sector, further stressing the exclusivity of the development. And last but not least, the viewing gallery will be open to the public but at a cost – the fee to go up the 72 storeys will be a princely £24.95 (£18.95 for a child), which means that an average family of 4 would have to splash out around £100 on the attraction. Cambridge University’s ‘Who Owns The City?’ study from 2011 shows that over 50% of its offices are currently in hands of foreign investors and only one in three residential properties in central London are actually purchased by Britons.

The Shard Tower
photo © Nick Weall

With all the controversy, The Shard truly becomes a metaphor for what the capital is becoming – whether one agrees with it or not. It is still an exceptional architectural achievement and a pinnacle of Renzo Piano’s career. It probably will take years for it to truly blend in to London’s skyline, but it certainly has a potential to become London’s newest iconic landmark.

Magdalena Wrzeszcz

The Shard London

The Shard Skyscraper

The Shard Tower

London Shard architects : Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW)

Location: London Bridge Station, central London, England, UK

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