Renzo Piano is stamping his mark on London. The Shard will be another project, after the St Giles building with its colourful fascia. The Shard will be different, a gleaming tower of steel and glass, the sort of thing we have come to expect of modern skyscrapers. I read Renzo Piano took his inspiration from the masts of the tall ships that once used to grace the Thames and he came up with the design in the space of a few seconds, sketched in a Berlin restaurant, on the back of the proverbial fag packet. Not only will it be one of the tallest buildings in Europe when complete in 2012, but it will also be one of the most technologically advanced towers ever built. The Shard will use an advanced type of glass with a low iron content that means it is completely clear, rather than having the greenish tinge of most architectural glass.
“If you use low iron glass you end up with something that really is like a crystal”, he says. “So depending on the day, the light and the position of the sun, the building will look different”.
At the moment it’s half built, and there is a lot of demolition work going on around London Bridge station with the Cross Rail project. I suspect it will by contrast make the existing old buildings in the vicinity look even shabbier and more decrepit when its complete. The artists impressions seem to open up the area, so perhaps some of the old and shabby will be vanquished in favour of the new and modern, changing the face of London Bridge forever.
How different it looks on a grey and wintry October day, just three days later.
As of 19 January 2011, this was how it looked from London Bridge. We’ve got John Prescott to thank for this enormous tower. Against advice he approved its location and now it threatens to spoil the hitherto iconic vistas of St Paul and The Tower – Guardian article. I came across this .pdf lecture surrounding the history of this huge skyscraper.
The view from Hampstead Heath now illustrates why its position isn’t exactly ideal – Guardian article. Really, of all the possible places to put this building, you’d have thought that it would have been fairly simple to have worked this one out before digging the first hole. And the whole building is 80% owned by Qatari wealth – just how much of London prime real estate is now owned by foreigners?
Apparently a city fox was discovered up the top of the tower, living off sandwich scraps left by the builders. I wonder how much rent that would be?
Update: June 2012
Well, the top’s on. The weather lately has been wet, wet, wet and grey. Some mornings you could not see the top for the clouds. However, today I had a chance to stop by and the weather was fabulous.
The low-iron glass reflects the light, it looks crystal white in the strong morning light, just as predicted.
There is still a massive amount of building work going on around London Bridge, including the new rail bridges.
The Shard is now a dominant feature on the London skyline.
Its official opening was yesterday, 5 July, with a less than spectacular light show. I couldn’t be there, but this picture was published in the Metro.