Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Architecture: The Shard, London Bridge Quarter [Inauguration]

 A laserlight show complemented the Inauguration of The Shard

It's said to be the building that will send Londoners and budding tourists to dizzying heights, the building that will help the United Kingdom join the mile high club, or should I say the 'sky-high' club of dramatic unparalleled high-rise architecture. The skyscraper at a dazzling 308m was designed by world renowned Italian architects practice Renzo Piano's Building Workshop, and it was to be last Thursday, the 5th July that The Shard had its Inauguration, and in cinematic style too. Spectators along London Bridge were treated to mingling tones set by the London Philharmonic Orchestra as the stage was set for what was to be the tallest building in the European Unions grand unveiling. With a fluorescent light show that lit up the capital's historically dominated skyline, The Shard was brought to life, asserting the same dominance David Cameron wishes to possess in Europe.

An 'unrivaled' view of central London

And so we get to the nitty gritty, the glass panes and the steel frames, and the laborious effort conjured by the constructors at the London Bridge Quarter site, of whom have spent the best part of over three years occupying the site and slowly but surely erecting quite possibly the tallest building the country will ever have. Great opposition will always meet a project of such magnitude, and The Shard has been no stranger to heavy criticism at the hands of industry professionals, architects and critics. With London being profoundly known for it monumentally historic architecture with the Palaces of Westiminster, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey to name a few, it was always going to be the case that when a juggernaut like the Shard was proposed there would be a furore of some sort, however most seem to be indifferent about the building's existance.

The Shard's pinnacle gets lost in the clouds

The name of the building was another focal point in the lengthy saga which saw the skyscraper flirt with names like 'The Shard of Glass' and the ever so mundane 'London Bridge Tower' eventually coming good  with its final name being 'The Shard, London Bridge Quarter'. In the same year the Olympics are to arrive in the city of London (in little less than three weeks), the building just wreaks of the 'Boris Effect' - an effort to galvanize the Capital in a such a community fashion, when sadly even parts of London that are the other side of the Games will struggle to feel a part of it. But with Qatari investment right at the helm of this project, it was nice to know tax-payers money was not being wasted on such a monolithic, benign and let's face it unnecessary project.

The high life: Luxury studio apartments at The Shard will not come cheap

'And how much is it to go right to the top and see my fair city in all its glory' you ask? Well tickets don't come cheap at nearly £25 for adults and nearly £19 for concessions, and to add to that public viewings won't be permitted until at least February of next year, so it's going to be a bit of a wait if you were hoping to make it up to the 72nd floor anytime soon. No doubt tourists will come in their hoards, so it can only benefit UK tourism with many who will visit specifically to see the 'unrivalled' panoramic view of London. The building still holds itself elegantly despite it, yes, being largely out of context in the London Borough of Southwark but on a miserable day (as we're used to in the UK), The Shard just seems to blend into the backdrop quite subtly, whilst jostling alongside some of 'The City's' most high-profile financial building such as The Lloyd's of London Building and 30 St Mary Axe with pride. It will become a London icon with time.

December 2011 during construction. Image taken by Tendai Taruvinga

We have witnessed the structure come together like one big three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle over the past two years as construction enveloped round the buildings concrete core. 11,000 glass panels bit-by-bit have come to clad the building's high-tech steel frame structure and through three cold winters we've watched the building surge to life seemingly unnoticed for the most part of its construction life-span, until the day of its unveiling where media presence was dominant in the revitalised 'London Bridge Quarter'. A building which is equipped with luxury apartments, offices and retail space, it will almost become the Burj Khalifa of the UK and even Europe, at least for a short while until France and Russia have completed their tall tales; you have to understand that in the world of high-rise architecture it's a massive race to the top. Where London has set itself in pole-position, and with great timing with the Olympic Games right round the corner, we've already given ourselves an inch on our European competitors. Golden.