The Shard is a modern glass skyscraper in London. At the time of its completion in 2012 it was Europe’s tallest building. The observatory on the 72nd floor offers some spectacular 360 degree views of the city.
The skyscraper is situated in the London Bridge Quarter in Southwark, a neighborhood along the south bank of the river Thames. It is right near the heart of London and only the river separates it from the City of London. The area is full of history: a bridge was built here by the Romans around 50 AD and in 1836 London’s first railway station opened here.
The idea to build a supertall skyscraper in the London Bridge Quarter was first mooted at the end of the twentieth century. The building would replace the Southwark Towers, a one hundred meters tall high-rise complex built in 1976. The site seemed ideal: it is only a couple minutes’ walk from London’s financial center across the London Bridge and the site is right smack near the London Bridge Station, a transport hub connected to both the railway network and the underground.
Plans for the new skyscraper were initially drawn up by the architectural firm of Broadway Malyan, and called for a circular 365 meters tall tower. These plans were soon scaled back and a new design was submitted, this time from the hands of the Italian architect Renzo Piano. The renowned architect designed a glass pyramid-shaped structure with a height of just over three hundred meters.
The plans for the London Bridge Tower – as the building was initially called – caused an outcry from preservationists who considered the glass tower inappropriate for a historic neighborhood with mostly low-rise brick buildings. They claimed the tower would cut through the neighborhood like a shard of glass. The name ‘shard’ stuck and the developers even renamed the tower ‘The Shard’.
In 2008 the Southwark Towers were demolished and construction of the Shard started one year later. The tower topped out in 2012 and opened in early 2013.
When it was completed the Shard held the title of Europe’s tallest skyscraper with a height of almost 310 meters (1016 ft). Only a couple of months later it was narrowly surpassed in height by Moscow’s Mercury City Tower. The Shard towers over the neighborhood and is visible from afar. The iconic skyscraper looks particularly spectacular at night when seen from across the river.
The tapered tower has a glass facade consisting of some eleven thousand window panes. The seemingly unfinished spire is designed to act as a radiator to naturally dissipate excess heat, thus reducing the need for air-conditioning. The building is multifunctional, with offices and a hotel at the lower floors and residential apartments on the upper floors.
The top floors of the Shard are home to the ‘View from the Shard’, an observation deck that offers visitors spectacular 360 degree views of the city. On a clear day you can see as far as sixty kilometers (approx. forty miles).
At a height of 245 meters (804 ft), this is the highest public viewing gallery in London, almost twice as high as the London Eye.