When most people think of London architecture, it’s often the older buildings that spring to mind – the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, those kind of places – but from today, the image of a new, modern, and very pointy structure could begin to fill the minds of visitors and residents alike.
Anyone who’s spent any time in London in the last year won’t have failed to notice the Shard as it slowly but steadily crept skyward, casting a pyramid-shaped shadow (when the sun came out) over the local area around London Bridge.
Height-wise, it takes the top spot in Europe, standing at 310 meters. Admittedly, by world standards it is but a junior member of the tall-building club, but if it was as tall as the mighty Burj Khalifa in Dubai, it would, let’s be honest, look a little out of place. And besides, with the number of cloudy days in London outnumbering blue-sky days, it’d be lost in the ol’ cumulonimbi most days.
The 95-floor Shard has within its striking glass exterior many of the things you’d expect with a building of this caliber: state-of-the-art offices, top class restaurants, a five-star hotel, exclusive residential apartments (costing up to £50m/$78m), and the UK’s highest viewing gallery offering 360-degree panoramic views for miles around.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing for the new building on the block, however, with English Heritage complaining it affects the view of St. Paul’s Cathedral on the opposite side of the Thames. UNESCO also refuses to salute the new structure, saying it compromises the visual integrity of the nearby Tower of London.
No doubt, over time, the majority of Londoners will come to embrace the new addition to their skyline, if they haven’t already.
Love it or hate it, the Shard is all set for a potentially spectacular opening ceremony Thursday evening, which all being well will see 12 lasers and 30 search beams light up the night sky to a backing of live music from the London Philharmonic Orchestra.