5 Jul 2012

Shard defies odds to open with a light spectacle

Western Europe’s tallest building, the Shard, opens in London, having defied objectors and the credit crunch during its 12 years in the planning.

Designed by architect Renzo Piano, the 95-storey building occupies a site next to London Bridge station on the south bank of the River Thames and forms part of the wider regeneration of the London Bridge area.

Dignitaries attending the opening include the Duke of York and Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabor Al Thani, who described the Shard as an “important symbol for London”.

The building will also be the focal point for a light show celebrating its opening, where lasers will reach out to other buildings across the capital including the London Eye, the Gherkin and Tower Bridge.

The Shard stands 309.6m tall. When complete it will provide the highest homes in Europe, a five-star hotel, restaurants and the capital’s highest viewing galleries.

Like many recent London buildings, the Shard quickly gained a nickname, which has since become its formal name. The Shard comes from Mr Piano’s description of the development as “a shard of glass” during the planning stages.

The Shard: London’s fat lady? Jon Snow blogs

‘Commercial magnet’

Ali Shareef Al-Emadi, Qatar National Bank Group CEO, described the Shard as “a symbol” of Qatari investment in London: “Qatar National Bank and the State of Qatar have backed London Bridge Quarter since 2009, after other banks withdrew from funding in the wake of the credit crunch.

“This is because we strongly believed in its potential as a key regeneration project on London’s south bank and wanted to see this landmark project realised.

“For us, the Shard and all it represents, is a symbol for Qatari investment here in London.”

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson, said: “The Shard is more than just an amazing feat of engineering, it is a towering illustration of London’s determination to beat the recession and spur economic growth.

“This iconic, sparkling new addition to the capital’s skyline will act as a huge commercial magnet, pulling in scores of new businesses and offering vital employment opportunities for thousands of people.”

Shard facts

– The glass facade is 56,000m2, the equivalent of eight football pitches
– 95 per cent of construction material and 20 per cent of the steel is recycled
– There are 44 lifts in the building and eight escalators
– 360 degree views of up to to 40 miles will be available from its 68th floor
– Lifts take just 30 seconds to reach the viewing gallery, 244m up from the street