The Shard

For other uses, see Shard (disambiguation).
The Shard

The Shard in April 2015, viewed from the "Sky Garden" atop 20 Fenchurch Street
General information
Status Complete
Architectural style Neo-futurism
Location London, SE1
United Kingdom
Coordinates 51°30′16″N 0°05′11″W / 51.5045°N 0.0865°W / 51.5045; -0.0865Coordinates: 51°30′16″N 0°05′11″W / 51.5045°N 0.0865°W / 51.5045; -0.0865
Construction started March 2009
Completed July 2012
Opening 1 February 2013
Cost ~£435 million (contract cost only)
Owner State of Qatar (95%)
Sellar Property Group (5%)
Architectural 309.6 m (1,016 ft)
Observatory 244.3 m (802 ft)
Technical details
Floor count 95 (72 habitable)
Floor area 110,000 m2 (1,200,000 sq ft)
Lifts/elevators 44
Design and construction
Architect Renzo Piano
Developer Sellar Property Group
Structural engineer WSP Global (structural engineers), Robert Bird Group (concrete temporary works), Ischebeck Titan on most floors 40+ (concrete support)
Services engineer Arup
Main contractor Mace

The Shard,[lower-alpha 1] also referred to as the Shard of Glass,[8][9] Shard London Bridge[10] and formerly London Bridge Tower,[11][12][13] is a 95-storey skyscraper in Southwark, London, that forms part of the London Bridge Quarter development. Standing 309.6 metres (1,016 ft) high, the Shard is the tallest building in the United Kingdom, the 105th-tallest building in the world,[14][15] and the fourth-tallest building in Europe. It is also the second-tallest free-standing structure in the United Kingdom, after the concrete tower at the Emley Moor transmitting station.[16]

The Shard's construction began in March 2009; it was topped out on 30 March 2012[17] and inaugurated on 6 July 2012.[18] Practical completion was achieved in November 2012. The tower's privately operated observation deck, the View from the Shard, was opened to the public on 1 February 2013.[1][19][20] The glass-clad pyramidal tower has 72 habitable floors, with a viewing gallery and open-air observation deck on the 72nd floor, at a height of 244.3 metres (802 ft).[4][21] It was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano and replaced Southwark Towers, a 24-storey office block built on the site in 1975. The Shard was developed by Sellar Property Group on behalf of LBQ Ltd, and is jointly owned by Sellar Property and the State of Qatar.[6]



In 1998, London-based entrepreneur Irvine Sellar and his then-partners decided to redevelop the 1970s-era Southwark Towers following a UK government white paper encouraging the development of tall buildings at major transport hubs. Sellar flew to Berlin in the spring of 2000 to meet the Italian architect Renzo Piano for lunch. According to Sellar, Piano spoke of his contempt for conventional tall buildings during the meal, before flipping over the restaurant's menu and sketching a spire-like sculpture emerging from the River Thames.[22]

In July 2002, the then-Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, ordered a planning inquiry after the development plans for the Shard were opposed by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and several heritage bodies, including the Royal Parks Foundation and English Heritage.[23][24] The inquiry took place in April and May 2003,[11][25] and on 19 November 2003, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister announced that planning consent had been approved.[26] The government stated that:

Mr Prescott would only approve skyscrapers of exceptional design. For a building of this size to be acceptable, the quality of its design is critical. He is satisfied that the proposed tower is of the highest architectural quality.
The Southwark Towers office block, which was demolished in 2008 to make way for The Shard

Sellar and his original partners CLS Holdings plc and CN Ltd (acting for the Halabi Family Trust) secured an interim funding package of £196 million in September 2006 from the Nationwide Building Society and Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander. This enabled them to pay off the costs already incurred and to buy out the Southwark Towers occupational lease from the building's tenants, PricewaterhouseCoopers.[27] Vacant possession of the site was secured a year later, after PricewaterhouseCoopers completed the relocation of their operations.

In September 2007, preparations for the demolition of Southwark Towers began.[28] However, later that same month, turbulence in the financial markets reportedly put the Shard's construction in jeopardy,[29] threatening to render the project an example of the Skyscraper Index.

In November 2007, building contractor Mace was awarded the contract to build the Shard for a fixed price of no more than £350 million. However, this price increased to almost £435 million in October 2008.[30]

In April 2008, demolition of Southwark Towers was visibly under way,[31] and by October, the building had been substantially reduced in height, and was no longer visible on the skyline. The demolition was completed in early 2009, and site preparation began for the construction of the Shard.


In late 2007, the gathering uncertainty in the global financial markets sparked concerns about the viability of the Shard. However, in January 2008, Sellar announced that it had secured funding from a consortium of Qatari investors, who had paid £150 million to secure an 80% stake in the project. The consortium included Qatar National Bank, QInvest, Qatari Islamic Bank and the Qatari property developer Barwa Real Estate, as well as Sellar Property. The deal involved a buyout of the Halabi and CLS Holdings stakes, and part of the Sellar Property stake.[32] The new owners promised to provide the first tranche of finance, allowing construction of the tower to begin. In 2009, the State of Qatar consolidated its ownership of London Bridge Quarter, including the Shard, through the purchase of the private Qatari investors' stakes. London Bridge Quarter is today jointly owned by the State of Qatar and Sellar Property.[6]


Audio description of the building by Steven Berkoff
Internal structure of the Shard's spire and radiator floors, seen from the 72nd-floor observatory

Renzo Piano, the project's architect, designed the Shard as a spire-like sculpture emerging from the River Thames.[22] He was inspired by the railway lines next to the site, the London spires depicted by the 18th-century Venetian painter Canaletto, and the masts of sailing ships.[13] Piano's design met criticism from English Heritage, who claimed the building would be "a shard of glass through the heart of historic London", giving the building its name, the Shard.[33] Piano considered the slender, spire-like form of the tower a positive addition to the London skyline, recalling the church steeples featured in historic engravings of the city, and believed that its presence would be far more delicate than opponents of the project alleged. He proposed a sophisticated use of glazing, with expressive façades of angled glass panes intended to reflect sunlight and the sky above, so that the appearance of the building will change according to the weather and seasons.[34] The building features 11,000 panes of glass, with a total surface area of 56,000 square metres (600,000 sq ft).[35]

The Shard was designed with energy efficiency in mind. It is fitted with a combined heat and power (CHP) plant, operating on natural gas from the National Grid. Fuel is efficiently converted to electricity and heat is recovered from the engine to provide hot water for the building.[36]

Following the destruction of New York's World Trade Center (WTC) in the terror attacks of 11 September 2001, architects and structural engineers worldwide began re-evaluating the design of tall structures. The Shard's early conceptual designs were among the first in the UK to be amended following the publication of the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) report into the collapse of the WTC. The building is designed to maintain its stability under very onerous conditions,[37] with its post-tensioned concrete and composite floors, load-bearing pillars and tapering shape giving it a sway tolerance of 400 millimetres (16 in).[38]

In 2014, The Shard claimed first place at the Emporis Skyscraper Awards, recognising buildings over 100 m (328 ft) completed in the previous twelve months. The Emporis judges hailed the building as "a skyscraper that is recognized immediately and which is already considered London's new emblem".[39]


Floors Floor area Space designation
73–95 Spire
68–72 758 m2 (8,159 sq ft) The View from The Shard (observatory)
53–65 5,772 m2 (62,129 sq ft) Residences
34–52 Shangri-La Hotel
31–33 5,945 m2 (63,991 sq ft) Restaurants (Hutong, Oblix and Aqua Shard)
28 South Hook Gas
27 Arma Partners
26 52,322 m2 (563,189 sq ft) New State Corporation
24–25 The Office Group
19–23 52,322 m2 (563,189 sq ft) Offices
18 Gallup
17 Warwick Business School and Foresight
16 Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera UK London studio and offices
15 Mathys & Squire
14 Duff & Phelps
10–13 54,488 m2 (586,504 sq ft) Offices including Robert Half and Protiviti
9 IO Oil and Gas
8 54,488 m2 (586,504 sq ft) Offices
4-6 54,488 m2 (586,504 sq ft) Clinic (HCA Healthcare at the Shard)[40]
3 54,488 m2 (586,504 sq ft) Offices
1–2 6,036 m2 (64,971 sq ft) Retail and office reception
Ground Hotel, restaurant and observatory entrances

Sources:[41] and[42] and[43]


The Shard pictured from Great Tower Street in April 2012

In February 2009, a mobile crane and a small piling rig arrived on site. In early March 2009, the crane began putting steel beams into the ground, as part of preparations for the core of the building. Full construction began on 16 March 2009. Demolition work on New London Bridge House started in May 2009, as part of the concurrent London Bridge Place project. The first steelwork went into the Shard's piles on 28 April.[44] Five cranes were used to build the Shard, with four of them 'jumping' with the tower as it rose. Crane 1 was erected in September 2009 and Crane 2 was erected at the beginning of October.[45] By 20 October 2009, steel beams began appearing on site, with concrete being poured at the northern part of the site, ready for Crane 3.

By March 2010, the concrete core was rising steadily at about 3 metres (9.8 ft) a day.[46] After a pause in March–April 2010, it continued rising, reaching the 33rd floor in mid-June, almost level with the top of Guy's Hospital, which stands at 143 metres (469 ft). On 27 July 2010, the core stopped rising, having reached the 38th floor, and was reconfigured for further construction.[47] By mid-November 2010, the core had reached the 68th floor, with the tower's steel reaching the 40th floor and glass cladding enveloping a third of the building. In late November, the core's height exceeded 235 metres (771 ft), ending One Canada Square's 18-year reign as Britain's tallest building.[48]

The Shard's concrete core topped out at the 72nd floor in early 2011, standing at 245 metres (804 ft). The early part of January 2011 saw the installation of hydraulic screens, which were used to form the concrete floors of the hotel and apartment section of the tower, and rose with the floors up to the 69th floor. On 25 January 2011, the concrete pumps began pouring the first concrete floor at the 41st floor. By the end of February 2011, concrete flooring had risen to the 46th floor, with a new floor being poured on average every week. The cladding of the structure also progressed, mainly on the tower's "backpack".

In February 2011, a Red fox (V. vulpes) was discovered to be living on the partially-completed 72nd floor, having climbed the building site's central stairwell. Nicknamed 'Romeo' by the RSPCA, the animal was rescued and later released back into the wild.[49]

The inauguration of The Shard on 5 July 2012

August 2011 saw steady progress in construction, with cladding enveloping more than half the building's exterior. Pouring of the concrete floors reached the 67th floor, and progression on the tower's cladding reached the 58th floor. By mid-August, the core box had been removed. By 19 September 2011, the tower's steel was approaching the height of the completed core, reaching almost 244 metres (801 ft).[50] On 24 September, a final crane – at the time, the tallest ever built in Britain – was erected to install the skyscraper's upper spire.[51] The spire was pre-fabricated and pre-assembled based upon 3D models, and underwent a "test run" in Yorkshire before being lifted onto the building itself.[52] By late December 2011, the Shard had become the tallest building in the European Union, superseding the Commerzbank Tower in Frankfurt, Germany.[53]

The Shard's steel structure was topped out on 30 March 2012, when its 66-metre (217 ft), 500-tonne spire was winched into place.[54][55] The steel structure thus reached a height of 308.5 metres (1,012 ft). The final 516 panes of glass were added shortly after, topping the tower out at its full height of 309.6768 metres (1,016.000 ft).[56]

The Shard was inaugurated on 5 July 2012 by the Prime Minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, in a ceremony attended by Prince Andrew, Duke of York.[57] The inauguration ceremony featured a laser light show comprising 12 lasers and 30 searchlights, which illuminated the building on the London skyline.[18] Practical completion of the building was achieved in November 2012.

The Shard dominating the City of London skyline, as seen from Forest Hill in July 2013


Standing 309.7 metres (1,016 ft) at its highest point, and 308.5 metres (1,012 ft) at the highest point of its steelwork,[17] the Shard became the tallest building in the European Union in December 2011,[53] and the tallest completed building in Europe on 30 March 2012. It thus surpassed Frankfurt's Commerzbank Tower, which, at 259 m (850 ft), was Europe's tallest building between 1997 and 2005. Thereafter, the Shard successively exceeded the heights of three Moscow skyscrapers, the Triumph-Palace, Naberezhnaya Tower, and City of Capitals, each of which had held the European height record for roughly 2.5 years. However, upon its completion in November 2012, Moscow's 339-metre (1,112 ft) Mercury City Tower replaced the Shard as the tallest in Europe.[58][59] The Shard may eventually be surpassed as the EU's tallest building by the 323-metre (1,060 ft) Hermitage Plaza building, which is planned to be completed in La Défense, Paris, in 2019.[60][61]

The Shard is the second-tallest free-standing structure in the United Kingdom, after the 330-metre (1,083 ft) concrete transmission tower at Emley Moor.[16] Another planned London skyscraper, the Pinnacle, was originally proposed to rival the height of the Shard, but was reduced to a height of 287.9 metres (945 ft) because of concerns from the Civil Aviation Authority.[62]


In February 2013, The Sunday Times reported that the developers of the Shard were in negotiations to secure the first tenants of the building's 25 floors of office space. In May 2013, the Daily Mail reported that only six of The Shard's 72 habitable floors were in use, as a combination of high prices and poor situation discouraged buyers.[63] At the time, potential tenants included financial restructuring specialists Duff & Phelps, private equity firm Hatton Corporation and the South Hook Liquefied Natural Gas Company.[64][65]

The Shard's fourth, fifth and sixth floors host the HCA (Hospital Corporations of America), part of London Bridge Hospital. The Shard's 31st, 32nd and 33rd floors host three restaurants: Oblix,[66] Hutong[67] and Aqua Shard.[68] The building's Shangri-La Hotel, occupying floors 34–52, was initially expected to open by the end of 2013,[69][70] but its opening was ultimately delayed to 6 May 2014.[71] In March 2014, Mathys & Squire became the first law firm to take tenancy in the building.[72][73] In May 2014, the Foresight Group, an investment firm, moved its head UK office into the Shard on the 17th floor.[74]

In July 2013, the Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera Media Network announced that it would open a new television studio and newsroom for Al Jazeera English in the Shard.[75] Al Jazeera moved in on 13 September 2014, and its first live broadcast from the building took place on 10 November 2014.[76] The facility currently houses all primary operations for Al Jazeera Media Network's channels in London; it is capable of running an entire channel independent from Al Jazeera's other hubs, and is the network's second-biggest hub after its facility in Doha, Qatar.[77]

In January 2015, further tenants for the Shard were announced, including IO Oil & Gas Consulting, Gallup and The Office Group.[78] In May 2015, the American recruitment consultancy Robert Half International announced that it would move several branches of its business into the Shard, having purchased 20,000 square feet (1,900 m2) of floor space on the tower's tenth floor.[79] In August 2015, the international law firm Greenberg Traurig announced that it would open its offices on the eighth floor of the Shard by the end of the year.[80]

In February 2016, global digital marketing agency Jellyfish announced they would be moving into the Shard in May 2016, occupying the 22nd floor. Jellyfish has other offices in Reigate, London, Brighton, Durban, Baltimore and New York.

Urban exploration, BASE jumping and climbing

In December 2011, a group of recreational trespassers calling themselves the Place Hackers evaded security and made their way to the top of the Shard building site, climbing one of the tallest cranes in the process.[81] They later posted photographs of the London skyline taken from the top of the Shard on the Internet and received wide media attention. One member of the group, Oxford University researcher Bradley Garrett, later revealed to various news outlets that over 20 urban explorers had made their way to the top of the building during its construction.[82] In a 2012 article for Domus magazine, Garrett wrote that "the conceptual barrier to places in our cities is brought about by a process of engineered exclusion" and that the explorers were "cultivating the creative city that money can't buy".[83]

BASE jumpers reportedly jumped from The Shard more than a dozen times between 2009 and 2012. Four jumps were reportedly made by Essex roofer Dan Witchalls, who had filmed one attempt with a helmet-mounted camera. The highest jump was said to have been from a height of 850 feet (260 m).[84] In March 2016 another person BASE jumped from The Shard.[85]

On 3 September 2012, a team of 40 people, including Prince Andrew, Duke of York, abseiled from the tower's 87th floor. This feat was performed to raise money for the Outward Bound Trust and the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund.[86][87] In November 2012, the French urban climber Alain Robert was spotted in the building by security guards. At the end of the month, the Shard's owners won an injunction to prevent him from entering or climbing the building.[88]

On 11 July 2013, six female Greenpeace volunteers climbed the Shard and unfurled a flag in protest against Arctic oil drilling by Royal Dutch Shell.[89] The women announced they were "experienced climbers", but medical personnel were summoned to the base of the tower nonetheless.[89] The Shard's staff closed the tower's observatory and gave the women a safety briefing and other advice during their climb.[89] After completing their 16-hour climb, the six women were arrested by police on suspicion of aggravated trespass.[89]

See also

Similar structures:


  1. The building's operators officially stylise its name as The Shard, with the word "the" capitalised.


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