Irvine Sellar, The Shard’s developer and joint owner, had an ambitious vision to create an architecturally striking vertical city incorporating retail, offices, hotel, apartments, restaurants and a public viewing gallery. His idea was to build a diverse vibrant community, and provide multiple areas within which the public could experience the building and its magnificent views. And all of this astride one of London’s major transport hubs.
Today, The Shard is a living, dynamic building, full of energy. Its sits proudly next to its stunning sister building, The News Building, now headquarters to News UK and illustrious titles and media brands: The Times, HarperCollins, Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal. These two Renzo-designed buildings will be occupied by 12,500 people and are already establishing a new vibrant community – Shard Quarter.
The finished building remained true to the original vision of a “Vertical City” with multiple and different occupiers, many of which will operate 24 hours a day, including hotel, education, medical, tourist attraction, residential, retail, restaurant, and offices. The Shard’s proximity to London Bridge Station, which itself is being transformed into a 21st-century transport hub used by 75 million people a year, means travelling to it is a smooth experience for occupiers and visitors alike.
Taking inspiration from the spires of London churches and the masts of tall ships depicted by the 18th-century Venetian painter Canaletto, Renzo Piano designed The Shard as a spire-like sculpture emerging from the River Thames.
The slender pyramidal form was tuned to the mix of uses that the building contains; offices making use of the large floor plates on levels 4-28, and directly connected to the busy transport hub at ground level. Immediately above are three floors of restaurants and bars. The hotel occupies the central section of the building, with the residences above, where the building is slender enough for apartments to have views on all sides.
The final floors accommodate the UK’s highest public viewing galleries, 240m above street level. The spectacular glass and steel spire at 95 storeys (310m) high forms its summit, tapering off and disappearing into the sky – a particularly important detail for Piano given the building’s prominence on the London skyline.
Eight sloping glass facades, the “shards”, define the shape and visual quality of the tower, fragmenting the scale of the building and reflecting the light in unpredictable ways. Opening vents in the gaps or “fractures” between the shards, provide natural ventilation to winter gardens.
Fundamental to Piano’s vision of the building was the idea of lightness and transparency. For all its height, The Shard would be an elegant spire in contrast to the bulky high-rises of the past. Realizing this idea meant using glass in a highly innovative way.
Piano’s sophisticated use of extra white glass, with these expressive façades gives the tower a lightness and a sensitivity to the changing sky around it, The Shard’s colour and mood are constantly changing according to the weather and seasons. It required a particular technical solution to ensure the facade’s performance in terms of controlling light and heat. A double-skin, naturally ventilated facade with internal blinds that respond automatically to changes in light levels was developed.
Outstanding architecture is why a million people visited The Shard’s viewing platform in its first year; why up to six thousand people a day visit The Shard’s restaurants and bars; why tens of thousands are expected to visit the Shangri-La hotel; why its office occupiers are reporting substantial uplift in new business since moving in; and why Londoners, especially, embrace this magnificent building.
The Shard’s exclusive residential apartments, situated on floors 53-65, are the highest in the UK and offer the best view of the capital from the most prestigious address in London.
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