December 26, 2012

Project: The Shard in London

The highest public observation galleries in London, the 15,000-square-foot View at The Shard, will open in February 1, 2013. The 192,000-square-foot Shangri-La Hotel, at The Shard, London will follow. Then the 62,000-square-foot residences, the 29,000-square-foot restaurants, the 5,000-square-foot retail space, and the 595,000-square-foot offices. 

That’s a total of 900,000 square feet on a relatively small site of about one acre.

“Architecturally it was a challenge,” says Baron Phillips, a spokesperson for the London Bridge Quarter, a neighborhood overhaul that began in 1998 when the Shard’s original building was acquired by Sellar Property Group. It took 10 years to finalize plans and approvals, since there were not many existing tall buildings around to reference as credible, and to raise money. Luckily, a consortium of banks and real-estate companies stepped in as the recent financial crisis hit.

Finally, the three-year build was underway. And, says Phillips, who has never seen anything like it, Renzo Piano’s initial musing matches what’s in progress. The concept was drawn on the back of a menu, inspired by 18th-century paintings of London by Italian painter and printmaker Giovanni Antonio Canal depicting a cityscape dominated by church spires. However, there’s one important difference in the real-life version: it’s somewhat shorter. The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority ruled at 1,016 feet.

Not that anyone is calling this modern spire short. In fact, it’s Europe’s tallest building. The Shard is also generously solar powered (a 7,965-square-foot array helps beat emissions regulations by 45 percent) and 95 percent of its construction materials are recycled. 

Mixed-use buildings are unusual in Europe, says Phillips. Call it tall, call it a pioneer, the Shard and its 600,000-square-foot glass façade is already a London landmark.

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