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"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear." Mark Twain

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

A trip up the Shard

Skyscrapers.  They're popping up everywhere in London.  I recall when I first lived on the Isle of Dogs; the Canary Wharf tower was just a few storeys high.  Then more recently across in the city there's been the Gherkin, the Pan Peninsula more closer to home and now the mother of them all - The Shard.

I sometimes wonder whether this whole desire to construct a tall building is just mans way of compensating for something else.  I mean are there any female architects of tall buildings anywhere in the world? Or would a woman simply design a mere modest home?

However before you question that, Aqua is the current tallest building designed by a women and is just 82 storeys high and stands in Chicago.  Interestingly it is a tower of ripples and attractive curves unlike a fabricated and glorified 1960s council block.

The Shard is however far from a block; hence its name, which was derived when the initial application was rejected due to the design resembling a shard of glass.

95% of the construction materials are recycled.  Not only is that an incentive for everyone to recycle their goods it makes me think of the building as more of a super-sized Blue Peter experiment.

A few facts:

1. Currently the tallest building in the UK
2. Currently the highest residences in Europe with the Penthouse 735ft high
3. It is 309.6 metres (1,016 ft) high
4. 15 levels make up the 'top' from viewing platform upward
5. Amazingly the construction took three years from start to finish in 2012

No matter how you look at it, the Shard looks impressive from any angle and especially so of a sunny day or at sunset.  From Canary Wharf it stands proud both from the open riverside and even sneaking from behind some of the apartment blocks on the west side of the Isle of Dogs.

To have tickets to go up the Shard on what has been the sunniest day of the year was like winning the lottery.  Only interestingly had I have won the lottery I still wouldn't have been able to compete with the Sultan of Brunei who as we speak is apparently in a bidding war for claiming the top floor for his pad.  The starting price was £60m however that figure has long been surpassed.

The closest you will get to experiencing life at the Shard is once the Shangri-La hotel opens in May.  With a mere seven stars the hotel including the all important spa will occupy the 34th to the 52nd floor.  The 31st to the 33rd floors will be restaurants and bars.  The first section are currently all bar one, vacant office floors and then the top section is soly for residential purposes.  Just ten exclusive residences each with a 360 degree view across London.  Each floor in the millions, some duplex apartments.  Why of course there's a bidding war on.  Why?  Because they can.

In the meantime, it's all about tourists (and locals like me) taking two and if you really want to - three - lifts to the top.  The 'top' is actually the shardy bit of the shard and is not accessible to the public and nor, interestingly is it not going to be the home of some wealthy individual.  Instead it is purely set aside for those daredevil workmen and we saw a couple today.

Due to the design, they have to secure themselves and then swing themselves out and around the exterior of the building making those inside looking out appear like goldfish.  Well somebody's got to clean the windows.

Whilst taking in the views ambient music is played constantly and in such a way you don't realise that is part of the reason you feel so incredibly relaxed.  It's like being in a different world.  People spotting without people walking past. That feeling.  Either way it is amazing.

It's quite difficult not to get trapped in to taking the same old photographs as everyone else.  To avoid the glare get your lens right up to the glass.  However be prepared to have some inner body reaction to either looking up, looking down, looking straight ahead, being close to the glass or generally in my case feeling rather vulnerable by simply standing on wooden slats for a floor.  All very disconcerting.

The weather was glorious and that may have been a contributing factor to us really enjoying ourselves. However one lucky couple really did enjoy themselves as they'd just got engaged at the viewing platform.  'Awwww' I hear you think.  'Well my height was bigger than your height' the one proposing in the Shard can say to the man proposing from the Eiffel Tower.

And if you do consider an engagement, or any other important event for that matter at the viewing platform, you can even buy a bottle of The Shard bubbly for the occasion.

Alternatively you can buy a pencil.  Like I did.

Anyhow, here are a few of my photographs from a trip up the Shard today.

The thought however that there will be at least two skyscrapers on the Isle of Dogs of a very similar height does not however fill me with joy.  Much to the contrary.  Their proposed designs lack any imagination.

Despite that and my initial scepticism of the experience, wondering too whether the entry fee was ridiculous, I was really impressed with the Shard experience the minute I arrived.  It is really quite special and definitely worth it.

The staff are seriously friendly.  It's like being at the Olympics all over again.  Only this time you're up near the clouds, well certainly the smog.

Do go.  Hand over the cash closing your eyes.  Open them when you arrive at the viewing platform.

The Shard experience

The Shard


  1. Wow. Nice place. Bu can I ask? Is this a hotel? Because it looks different for other hotel I've seen. I'm s sure to be back here for your response. By the way having a hard time in londra hotel? Browse here.

  2. Hi and yes, a very nice place. But not a hotel. It's the latest viewing tower that doubles as an apartment block and what will be shortly, a hotel and spa too. As far as I'm aware the London Hilton on Park Lane is London's tallest hotel. Thanks for viewing.