Although the building has 95 stories, only 72 have usable floor space. In addition, the building features a publicly accessible, open-air observation deck on the 72nd floor. The Shard replaced Southwark Towers, a 24-story office development that was built in 1975. The building is partially owned by the State of Qatar.
The building was proposed and designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano in 1998. By 2003, the building’s design had been finalized and approved for construction. The developer secured financing and bought out the existing leases from the occupants of Southwark Towers. Southwark Towers was demolished and construction on The Shard began in 2009.
While the site was being secured and prepared for construction, concerns arose about the project’s financing. Originally, the cost of the project had been estimated to be £350 million, but in the interim, projected costs had increased to £435 million. The project developer, Sellar Properties, secured additional funding from Qatari investors.
The glass building was designed to appear as though it were emerging from the River Thames. The designer said he was inspired by the church steeple in the historic London area where the construction was proposed. When the building design was initially revealed, it was roundly criticized. The English Heritage Trust claimed that the building would be “a shard of glass through the heart of historic London.” The imagery stuck and gave the building its popular name.
The building is energy efficient, and contains its own natural-gas fired electric power plant. Waste heat from the plant is used to supply domestic hot water for the building. The Shard was one of the first buildings built post-9/11, and features a number of structural design modifications designed to help the building retain stability under an attack.
The Shard is covered by 11,000 angled glass panels that combined cover 56,000 square feet of exterior surface area.
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Photo Credit: Gordon Joly, via Flickr.com