Towering tall

The London skyline has been dominated by St Paul’s Cathedral, which sits atop the highest point in the city. At 111 metres, it was the tallest building until the construction boom of the 1960s, when tall buildings started to appear in the city. More recently, skyscrapers such as The NatWest Tower and One Canary Wharf and developments such as the Barclays headquarters and 30 St Mary Axe, the Swiss Re Building known as “The Gherkin,” were built.

By Supriya Tiwari (Global India Newswire)

Published: Fri 25 Nov 2011, 11:25 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 7:39 AM

Now, ahead of the 2012 Summer Olympics, the city’s skyline is getting another facelift, with the addition of the 310-meter ‘Shard of Glass’. The super-tall structure , also known as ‘The Shard’ and ‘Shard London’, is being built directly across the river Thames from the financial district commonly known as ‘The City’.

Its neighbouring developments are the Mayor’s office right next to Tower Bridge, and More London Place, which houses the accountancy giants Ernst and Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers, among other financial businesses.

“We are creating an iconic global landmark for London that will be as instantly recognisable as the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower and The Empire State Building,” says Irvine Sellar, chairman of Sellar Property Group, the developer.

Most of the world’s leading hedge funds, banks, insurance companies and accountancy firms are either headquartered in, or operate out of London. Having a prestigious address in one of the buildings that define the city’s skyline is highly desirable for businesses that want to stamp their presence in the global arena.

The initial backers of the project were the Sellar Group and The Halabi Family Trust. However, in 2009, following the instability in financial markets, the Trust pulled out, and the project was rescued by a consortium led by the Qatar-based Qatar National Bank, QInvest and Qatari Islamic Bank. The Qatari consortium reportedly owns an 80 per cent stake in the development after a buyout of the initial investors’ stakes.

Now well under construction, the Shard became London’s tallest building in December 2010, when its 69th floor was completed, and it surpassed 236 meters in height, going past Canary Wharf Tower, which stands at 235.1 meters.

Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, said of the Shard upon this achievement, “If you want a symbol of how London is powering its way out of the global recession, the Shard is it, rising confidently up to the heavens.” He described the building of the Shard itself as a “huge engineering feat,” and also stated that he expected it to be as iconic as the Gherkin, St Paul’s and Big Ben.

The design of the Shard was conceived in 2000 by Renzo Piano, the well-known Italian architect. His inspiration for the Shard was, apparently, the railway lines next to the site at London Bridge station, the spires depicting churches of London in Canaletto’s art, and the masts of sailing ships.

Piano’s design of the structure was envisaged as a delicate spire that would add to London’s existing skyline. The glass façade of the building would reflect sunlight and the sky, and thus add to London’s existing skyline, rather than detract from it. The design is such that from each side the building would appear to be a shard of glass rising up into the skies, with each shard opening up as it reached the very top, almost blending in with the heavens above.

Located next to the famous Borough Market and Southwark Cathedral, the Shard is expected to become one of the most sought-after tourist attractions. It will encompass offices, a five star hotel (Shangri-La), bars, restaurants and luxury apartments. It is Europe’s only mixed-use building to do so.

According to Irvine Sellar of Sellar Group, once the London Bridge Quarter is completed, it will “become the new workplace for 12,500 people, equivalent to a fair-sized town,” comprising nearly 1 million square feet of new office space.

While Shard London is being completed with an eye on the Olympic timetable, the development of the surrounding area to the Shard is expected to be fully completed only by early 2013.

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