Modern Shard is energizing London

A group of guys were washing the windows of Europe’s tallest building when I got off the train at London Bridge Station this morning. ‘The Shard’ has been ascending to London’s South Bank for the past 3 years and on the 30th of March it finally reached its final height of 310 meters.

This Renzo Piano’s skyscraper has created controversy as it is the first high rise building to get a building permission outside the two financial districts, the City and Canary Wharf, which have traditionally been seen as the ares for tall buildings. And now even more very tall, largely residential, buildings are planned for the south bank of the Thames. Given London’s chronic housing shortage this may be a good idea, but the Mayor of London is yet to provide a plan to steer this development.

I personally quite enjoy buildings that disrupt the conventional thinking and energize forgotten areas. A bold and beautiful architecture and well-designed usability of a building can have a very positive effect for an area or for entire city. I’m happy that such a traditional city as London has managed to elevate its cityscape with interesting buildings such as the Gherkin ( ), the London Eye ( ) and now the Shard ( ).

Piano claims that the Shard is not a tower but a vertical city. His building differs radically from anything built in the UK before because of its mix of uses. Once finished next summer it will house 27 floors of high quality offices, 3 floors of leading name restaurants, the 5-star Shangri-La hotel and the capital’s highest public viewing gallery offering 360° views. There will be also 10 super-luxury apartments that are dubbed to be going for 30 to 50 million GBP each!

The developer is even considering renting out the very highest room on the 78th floor for high powered conferences and political talks.

Piano believes cities should not keep expanding outwards but upwards and he hopes his design sends a message of conserving land. He says his tower is not about money but about surprise and joy.

I agree with him. For me the tower does not feel arrogant but inviting. It will also be open for public and will not shut down at 6 pm. I’m happy to be living in a city that looks forward and embraces design in such a bold way. And a piece of modern design is not going to do any harm to all the history that we have in London, quite contrary.