The Shard

The Shard, London’s newest skyscraper, is hard to miss. Not only is it the tallest building in the United Kingdom, but until the completion of Moscow’s Mercury City Tower in late 2012, it was The Shard, tallest building in Europe. Designed by controversial Italian architect, Renzo Piano, construction of The Shard was nearly cancelled in 2007 due to unstable financial markets and global recessions. However, the 450 million pound sterling project was saved in 2008 by a group of Qatari investors who now hold 80 percent ownership. The Shard London Bridge finally reached its top height of 1,016 feet in June 2012, and it was officially opened on July 5, 2012. It is located in Southwark across the Thames River from the City of London. As the name would suggest, the most prominent nearby attraction is the London Bridge itself, although the more picturesque Tower Bridge is also nearby.

11,000 glass panels make up this building’s distinctive pyramid shape, reaching far above London’s Southwick neighborhood and earning its nickname, the Shard. Architect Piano drew inspiration for its irregular shape from the many church spires and ship masts that comprise so much of London’s history. Piano’s extensive use of glass is meant to reflect the sky, causing the building to look different in various types of weather. While the project has been heavily criticized for multiple reasons, it has been respected for its primary use of energy efficient and recycled materials.

The Shard’s 44 elevators whisk visitors to one of 72 habitable floors which offer a total of 27 acres of floor space. The ground floor offers a public area with seating, while the second floor opens onto the London Bridge station of the London Underground. This transportation hub will soon be remodeled, offering retail shopping to commuters. Floors four through 28 will serve as office space, each offering their own winter gardens. Above the offices, a dining atrium will extend from floors 31 to 33, filled with a myriad of restaurants serving international cuisine. One of London’s most unique hotels occupies floors 34 to 52, including a luxury spa. Floors 53 to 65 are reserved for 10 private, luxury residences, each offering a 360 degree view of the city. The Shard observation deck extends from floors 68 to 72, offering unsurpassed views of London. Floors 73 to 95 make up the building’s spire and are open to the elements.

The Shangri-La Hotel and Spa is soon to offer the most coveted hotel rooms in all of London. The 34th to 52nd floors of The Shard London Bridge are made up of 195 deluxe hotel rooms, including 25 suites, each boasting over 450 square feet of space. Each room also offers the patented Shangri-La Bed and incomparable views of the city from glass-enclosed winter garden balconies. The Shangri-La will also offer a full service luxury spa, including an indoor infinity pool and fitness center. This promises to be one of the finest of the London hotels - certainly the one with the best views of the city.

Shard Observation Deck
Shard Observation Deck

Possibly the most anticipated feature of The Shard London Bridge is the observation deck, aptly named The View from The Shard and scheduled to open in February 2013. At 804 feet high, this public viewing gallery is nearly twice the height of London’s other popular viewing platform, the London Eye. On a clear day, views from The Shard extend 40 miles across London. Tickets are date and time stamped, and advanced online ticket reservations are highly recommended. Bookings can be made up to four months in advance, and advance ticket holders do not have to wait in line. Be advised that security is vigilant at this attraction. All visitors must pass an electronic body scan, and there are several items that aren’t allowed onto the two dedicated high-speed elevators, including large bags and open containers of food. The View from the Shard is closed on Christmas Day.

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