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Shard of Glass.. new city landmark on the way

publication date: Mar 5, 2010
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shard of glass
Renzo Piano’s 310 metre masterpiece is the focus of the new London Bridge Quarter, set to transform an area that has been crying out for redevelopment for many years. It replaces Southwark Towers, a 24 storey office building – and will look very different indeed.

There are a number of ‘wow factors’ in the statistics for this amazing construction. At 72 floors, (plus eight radiator floors) it will be the tallest building in Europe (but possibly not for very long, other contenders are already planned). It is twice the height of the Swiss Re building – The Gherkin; the status of which as London’s ‘iconic’ building may well be challenged by the Shard. It will also offer the highest public viewing gallery in Europe; it’s estimated that over 1 million people will visit the Shard to see what London – and many miles further – looks like from 850 feet up.

Building the building:
• Level 1 - 22,627 sq ft - lobby
• Levels 2-28 - 586,509 sq ft office space
• Levels 34-52 - 174,355 sq ft 5 star Shangri-La Hotel
• Levels 34-36 - 63,992 sq ft restaurants and viewing gallery
• Levels 53-65 - 62,129 sq ft residential apartments
• Levels 68-72 - 8,159 sq ft viewing gallery and open air observation deck

After several years with a public enquiry and planning arguments there was considerable doubt that this very modern dreaming spire would ever materialise. It was finally given approval by John Prescott in November 2003.

The Shard’s site used to be home to Southwark Towers. In 2007, PwC, the occupants, vacated the building, enabling demolition work to start. In 2008, after a very rocky road, new financing was agreed for the project when the Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company stepped in to join Qatar Islamic Bank, Qinvest, Qatar National Bank, Barwa International and Sellar Property Group as funders.

Construction finally started in March 2009 and now the steel skeleton is now visible to the 375,000 users of London Bridge railway station as it reaches the fifth floor on its long journey skywards.

The Shard’s developer is Sellar Property Group, working with the major shareholder (80 per cent), the State of Qatar. His Excellency Sheikh Abdulla Bin Saoud Al-Thani, Governor of Qatar Central Bank says that neither the financial troubles in Dubai or the recession in the UK will affect the completion of the development. “This is a significant milestone in the construction of the Shard as it marks a new and exciting phase in the project. Over the coming months, the Shard will begin to take shape above the streets of London, a testament to the vision and hard work of our team.”

James Sellar, chief executive of Sellar Property Group, said of the spectacular project, “The Shard is set to become one of the most significant additions to the London skyline in decades. From the outset, it has always been my aim to ensure that this wonderful building is open to the public, so that they get to experience the wonder of the Shard at first hand.”

The London Bridge Quarter development will also have another 600,000 sq ft office building, providing a workplace for 12,000 people. The total cost is expected to be in excess of £1.2bn, to include major refurbishment of the train and bus stations and a piazza connecting the various areas.

Although nearly half of the Shard is pre let, letting agents for the remainder and associated rents have yet to be decided, but with many London projects on hold because of the funding issues, the Shard could be ready just as London faces its next boom, with increased demand for office space and correspondingly increased rents.

Who knows, by pushing ahead with the Shard maybe the developers have a point.