19 February 2012

The Shard Nears Completion

Twelve years after the idea for this remarkable building was first mooted, The Shard nears completion in London. It dominates the city’s skyline and is by far the tallest building in London (and the European Union), reaching up a staggering 1017 feet. These pictures, all taken in late January and February 2012, show just how The Shard will become an integral part of the London skyline.

If you look closely towards the top of the tower you will see a crane. This is firmly attached to the building’s 55th storey and can slide sleekly upwards to almost the very top. Unsurprisingly this makes it the highest crane in the United Kingdom – and its operator may well qualify as Britain’s bravest crane driver!

At least he has a cabin – for many of the builders involved in the final touches of the spire – constructed of steel and glass – everyday work involves being exposed to the chilly London weather over a thousand feet above the ground. One can only imagine the triple checking of safety harnesses before they venture out!

If you think that the weather has been cold enough in London over the last few weeks at ground level, spare a thought for the workers atop The Shard. Temperatures are a few degrees lower at that height and the winds are often so strong that work has to be temporarily suspended for hours at a time.

The 72nd floor will be home to an observation deck which will afford visitors views of London which until now have only been experienced by those literally in the air – for helicopter or plane passengers. The observation deck will open in February of 2013 and will provide the ‘money shot’ as it were – the view that only a US$ 690M (£435m) tower can deliver!

It must be admitted, it has come a long way in a year. The above was taken in January 2011.

The Shard will house offices up to its 28th floor. Above that there will be three floors of restaurants with a 19 story hotel. Each of the hotel’s 200 rooms will commands the highest nightly rates in the UK capital. As for the ten apartments which will near the top of the tower – whether you think in pounds, euros or dollars then think in the tens of millions before you consider placing a bid for one of them!

The crowning glory on top of all of this, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, will be the observation floor. Admired and vilified in equal numbers he envisioned, together with the Broadway Malyan firm, a slither of ice, clothed elegantly and entirely in glass. He also drew inspiration from old pictures by Canaletto of the graceful masts of the sailing ships of yesteryear.

Love it or hate it, The Shard (but not its observation floor) will open in May 2012 – just in time for the London 2012 Olympics. Mr Piano is anticipating it will draw in excess of two million visitors each year. If each visitor is charged £20 (and it was the sole source of the building’s income) it would take over ten years to recoup the cost of the construction!

Image Credit Flickr User Pondspider
Image Credit Flickr User Aurelien

Image Credit
First Image - Flickr User George Rex