By Steve Morris, 9 Oct 2012
If you're planning to visit London for the first time, or if you haven't been for a few years, then be warned - an alien spacecraft has landed on the South Bank close to London Bridge, its crystalline surfaces thrusting up into the atmosphere above the city.
Actually, it's not an alien edifice, but The Shard (originally known as the Shard of Glass).
Tallest building in Western Europe
It may not be the tallest building in the world, but with 72 floors and a height of 310m, it's the tallest building in Western Europe. Move over Canary Wharf - your days are over.
Designed by architect Renzo Piano, the Shard is a unique building in many ways. It's the tallest tower the capital has ever seen, at almost one-and-a-half times the height of One Canada Square in Canary Wharf. There are 44 lifts, including double-decker lifts, and 306 flights of stairs. The top nine floors are left open to the elements.
A vertical city
There's a lot going on inside the tower. In fact, Renzo Piano has described it as a vertical city. The building contains shops, offices, restaurants, a 5-star hotel, residential apartments and a viewing gallery offering 360 degree views over the London skyline. In addition to the viewing gallery, the ground-floor is also a public area with seating and plants.
The Shard also has parking for just 48 cars. Yes, personal transport is now officially evil and must be banned from cities. Instead, you'll be able to easily access London's transport infrastructure, with London Bridge Station right next door. There is a serious aspect to this. A high-density mixed-use building located at a major transport node reduces journey length and traffic density, saves time, fuel and cuts down on pollution. The Shard, despite all its macho thrusting, is an experiment in green living. It won't suit everyone, but there are a lot of benefits in packing people into high-density skyscrapers.
Sustainability was a key feature right through the construction project. 50% of the steel used in the tower came from recycled sources. In fact an incredible 95% of the construction materials were recycled. A triple skin of glass minimises the need for air conditioning whilst allowing maximum use of natural light. Combined heat and power reduces CO2 emissions.
Some may worry that the spire of the Shard looks like it's been modelled on the Tower of Mordor from Lord of the Rings. Others may moan about the way it dominates the London skyline, or criticise the profit motive of its developers. Others will point out that the apartments, priced at up to £50 million are for the super-rich only. Still others will misguidedly dismiss it as a competitive gimmick and a wasteful use of resources.
But all these people are missing the point.
For despite surface appearances, the Shard is a model for sustainable development. It demonstrates that "green" buildings don't have to be bungalows made out of thatch. High-density city living is quite probably the most environmentally sound means of living and working. The Shard is an emblem of a post-industrial way of life that looks forward to the future, not backwards to old ways of doing things. It's a poke in the eye for people who claim that there are too many people on the planet. It's a giant raspberry to blinkered and limited thinking. It's an iconic building that's fit for the world's greatest city in the twenty-first century.
S21 "likes" the Shard.
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Comment by john from eng on 19th Dec 2012
Looks like Mordor!