The Shard, London, stands at an astonishing 309.6 meters (1,016 ft) high – almost a third of a kilometre – making it the tallest building within the European Union. Construction of the 95-storey skyscraper began in 2009 and continued through to 2012, before finally opening to the public in 2013.
This epic architectural masterpiece is located in the London Bridge Quarter, Southwark. Developer Irvine Sellar had the ambition to create a ‘vertical city’ community that featured various retail, hotel, apartment, office, and restaurant complexes, as well as a public viewing gallery.
Sellar met with Renzo Piano, an award-winning architect, to discuss his visions in 2000. Piano first reacted negatively, claiming that tall buildings are arrogant and aggressive, but the vibrant energy and beauty of the proposed location soon swayed him, as he sketched a surprisingly realistic impression onto the back of a restaurant menu.
Inspired by church steeples and tall ship masts, Piano designed the Shard as a spired structure emerging up from the River Thames. More than 11,000 glass panels – equivalent in area to eight football pitches – cover the cleverly angled facades (shards) of the building’s exterior. This highly sophisticated glazing causes the tower to reflect sunlight in many unpredictable ways, constantly altering its appearance.
The innovative use of extra white glass creates Piano’s desired element of lightness and transparency. Sensitive to the ever changing sky and weather conditions, the impressive glazing creates a wonderful array of moods and colours for the building throughout the seasons.
Technically designed, the Shard incorporates a double-skin to provide natural ventilation throughout the building, with internal blinds that automatically respond to changes in the surrounding light.
Pioneering engineering methods were used to build the Shard as it was the UK’s first implementation of top-down construction, which sees foundations being dug while the core is built upwards.
Today, the Shard skyscraper is a lively, dynamic and energetic city hub, offering an everlasting and powerful reminder of the ways in which imagination can inspire change; this is the reason we’ve chosen it as our September pick.