London Shard tower is a skyscraper in London, England UK. Construction started in 2009 and was completed not too long ago on 30 March 2012, it is due to open publicly in February next year. It is the tallest habitable structure in Europe standing at 309.6m high (1,016 ft). The tower is however the second-tallest free-standing structure in the United Kingdom, after the 330-metre (1,083 ft) telecommunications and broadcasting concrete tower at the Emley Moor transmitting station.
My night on the London Embankment starts with my entry at the shiny newly opened Blackfriars underground station (which was closed pretty much for under 2 years presumably in preparations of the upcoming London Olympics beginning next month) just before the planned laser light show scheduled last night from 10.15pm onwards. The laser show lasted continuously for about an hour.
The Shard’s inauguration laser and light show was timed to an orchestra performance played to the VIP lounge, otherwise it’s pretty much a silent light show if viewed from the Embankment, particularly the North embankment area overlooking the South bank around the London Bridge area. High-powered green lasers were shot out from two main heights from the tower, one on the lower sub-twenty floors and the aerial lasers from around the 72nd roof floor. The tower has 72 habitable floors, with UK’s highest viewing gallery and open-air observation deck on the 72nd floor (245m high).
The skyscraper itself was designed in 2000 by Renzo Piano, an Italian architect, developed by Sellar Property Group and made possible by funding from a consortium of Qatari investors, paying up over £150 million to secure a 80% stake and control of the project.
Given the Shard’s visibility from almost any part of London, the upper deck lasers were set to rotate to pin-point various key landmarks around the city, such as the various museums, palaces and places of historical interest. The Tate was one such landmark near the Shard itself and lasers were seen directed and pointing at the Tate’s tower shrouded in darkness too, forming a large meter radius wide laser spot on the Tate’s main tower itself. The tower pulsed to a rotation of four different up-lighter coloured lights, which gave the tower pretty much varying personalities and mood depending on the hue rotation. It would be neat if the tower kept the rotating lights as a permanent fixture, contrary to having only it’s top spire lit at night.
The Shard’s design, as the name suggest was designed to be “a shard of glass” sticking out of the ground. The building looks like a rather modernized glassy version of the Transamerica pyramid in San Francisco from afar, until you notice the tower’s fine details, such as an anti-symmetrical design with the corners tapering from five to four corners on various parts of the skyscraper. The feat of squeezing such a tall building into a small London street footprint with various existing historical buildings, hospitals and tube lines was a great engineering feat worth mentioning too.
Personally, I find the Shard a refreshing addition to the London skyline, going in harmony and complimenting with many traditional old historical buildings (such as the nearby tower bridge too). It’s nowhere as spectacular as the Burj Khalifa in person, though there will of course be debates and complexities on building the world-tallest building in London, in place of one in Saudi Arabia or competing with their record-obsessive neighbor across the border.
The Shard’s received various mixed thoughts as a whole, such the ruining of the London skyline (though London don’t really have much of a Skyline to begin with). Some criticized it as pointless, an injection of oil money into London and invasion of tradition, while many welcomed it as a nice modern addition to London as a global hub for the world. In all, the Shard itself will be a new icon and perfect landmark not only for the upcoming London Olympics, but potentially as the new face of London too.
You can view more photos (Shard gallery) of the London Shard’s inauguration laser light show here.