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The Shard / London Bridge Tower
The Shard (February 2010)
General information
Location 32 London Bridge Street, Southwark, London, England
Status Under construction
Groundbreaking March 2009
Estimated completion May 2012
Antenna or spire 310 m (1,017 ft)
Roof 305.7 m (1,003 ft)
Technical details
Floor count 87 (Including Radiator floors)
Floor area 111,400 m2 (1,199,000 sq ft)
Companies involved
Architect(s) Renzo Piano
Structural engineer Arup (up to Planning Approval Stage, also building services), WSP Cantor Seinuk (from Planning Approval Stage), Robert Bird Group (concrete structure, tempory works and intelligent construction methods) Ischebeck Titan on most floors 40+ for concrete support
Contractor Mace
Developer Sellar Property Group

Shard London Bridge, also known as London Bridge Tower, the Shard of Glass, 32 London Bridge and The Shard is a supertall skyscraper under construction in Southwark, London, England. When completed in 2012 it will be the tallest building in the United Kingdom.

It is replacing Southwark Towers, a 24-storey office building which was completed in 1976. The tower will stand at 310 m (1,017 ft) tall and have 72 floors, plus 15 further radiator floors in the roof. Renzo Piano, the building's architect, worked together with architectural firm Broadway Malyan during the planning stage of the project. After a lengthy public inquiry, the collaboration successfully achieved its objective, and the developers were granted full planning permission in November 2003.

The Shard was announced with the hope that it would be the tallest building in Europe on completion, surpassing Frankfurt's Commerzbank Tower, which at 259 m (850 ft) had been the tallest building in Europe since 1997. The Commerzbank has since been surpassed in height by two Moscow skyscrapers, Triumph-Palace and Naberezhnaya Tower, both of which the Shard tower would, in turn, surpass. However, since 2000, construction has started on a skyscraper in Moscow that will rise higher than the Shard, the Mercury City Tower. The Federation Tower East, currently under construction, was going to be higher than the Shard but was reduced to 242.4 m (795 ft) tall. Still, if completed on schedule, the Shard London Bridge will become the tallest building in the European Union and one of the tallest buildings in Europe.

Another London skyscraper, the Bishopsgate Tower, was submitted for planning permission in London and was originally proposed to exceed the height by one metre. However, because of concerns from the Civil Aviation Authority, the height of the Bishopsgate Tower has now been reduced to 288m, meaning that the Shard will become Britain's tallest building and the tallest in the EU when it is completed. By way of comparison, Britain's tallest free-standing structure is the Emley Moor tower at 330.4 m (1,084 ft), and the tallest man-made structure of any kind in Britain (and the EU) is the Belmont mast at 385 m (1,263 ft).


History of the project

The Shard was designed in 2000 by Renzo Piano, the Italian architect best known for creating Paris’s Pompidou Center of modern art with Britain’s Richard Rogers. The London entrepreneur Irvine Sellar had decided to redevelop a gray office block next to London Bridge station and flew to Berlin in March 2000 to meet Piano for lunch. According to Sellar, the architect spoke of his contempt for tall buildings during the meal, before flipping over the restaurant’s menu and sketching an iceberg- like sculpture emerging from the River Thames.[1]


Renzo Piano, the project's architect, has compared his design to "a shard of glass" – he considers the slender, spire-like form of the tower a positive addition to the London skyline and believes that its presence will be far more delicate than opponents of the scheme allege. He proposes a sophisticated use of glazing, with expressive facades of angled panes intended to reflect light and the changing patterns of the sky, so that the form of the building will change according to the weather and seasons.[citation needed][2]

Data derived from the World Trade Center (WTC) collapse has resulted in a re-evaluation of the design of tall structures now being built globally. Shard’s early conceptual designs were among the first in the UK to be progressed following the publication of the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) report into the WTC collapse. The building will be designed to maintain its stability under the most onerous conditions.[3]

Another notable feature of the building will be a public viewing gallery at the top. This would be expected to draw over two million visitors a year. In addition, a shorter building known as London Bridge Place will be built nearby. This will replace the current London Bridge House and the combined sites will create what will be known as The London Bridge Quarter.

In addition to the tower, there will be major improvements to London Bridge station and the surrounding area. As part of a Section 106 legal agreement (currently close to £50 million), these will include a new concourse and public piazza, affordable housing and regeneration programmes.[4] A new museum will also be built.

Landscape architecture

Townshend Landscape Architects Ltd, have been awarded the opportunity to landscape the entire site of London bridge quarter. The design hopes to marry the multi-level site into a very useable and functional area incorporating the rail services, bus links and taxi rank in a safe, pedestrian friendly area.

Shangri-La Hotel

A hotel, to be operated by Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts as their first European location, will be expected to take up around a fifth of the available space in the tower. A large pre-let for office space in the tower has been agreed in principle by Transport for London.

Financing and site preparation

Work was expected to begin in 2005. However, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the firm who held a long-term lease on Southwark Towers, was not willing to vacate for some time and remained in the building until August 2007.

In September 2007, preparations for the demolition of Southwark Towers[5] had begun. But later in the month, turbulence in the financial markets was reported to have put the construction phase of the project into jeopardy,[6] threatening to render the whole project into an example of the Skyscraper Index.

In late September 2007, it was reported that the Halabi Family Trust (one of the main backers of the project along with CLS Holdings and Sellar Property Group) was going to be forced to sell its stake.[7]

In November 2007, building contractor Mace won the deal to build the Shard at a fixed price of no more than £350m. Their price increased by almost £85m in October 2008.[8]

In January 2008, it was announced that a consortium of Qatari investors had paid £150m to secure an 80% stake and take control of the project. The new owners promised to provide the first tranche of finance, meaning construction of the tower could begin. The consortium included Qatar National Bank, QInvest, Qatari Islamic Bank and the Qatari developer, one of the largest in the region, Barwa Real Estate. The deal involved a buyout of the Halabi and CLS Holdings stakes, and part of the Sellar Property stake.[9]

In April 2008, demolition of Southwark Towers was visibly underway, with scaffolding and white sheeting covering the building[10] and by October, Southwark Towers had been substantially reduced in height, and was no longer visible on the skyline. The demolition of Southwark Towers was completed in early 2009 and site preparation began for construction.

In late February 2009, the construction contract with Mace was signed, allowing construction to commence in March.


The site in June 2009.
The core, seen rising from a neighbouring street, Feb 2010.

In February 2009, a mobile crane and a small piling rig appeared on site. In early March, the small crane began putting steel beams into the ground, as part of preparations for the core of the building.

Full construction began on 16 March 2009, with the first piling rig on site. Demolition work on the New London Bridge House site commenced in May 2009. The latter is an adjacent project to accompany the Shard London Bridge. The first steel work went into the piles on 27 April.

Five Cranes are to be used to build the project, with four of them 'jumping' with the tower as it rises. Crane 1 was erected on 20 September and crane 2 was erected at the beginning of October.

By 20 October, steel beams began appearing on site, with concrete being poured at the northern part of the site, ready for Crane 3.

As of March 2010, the concrete core is rising steadily at approximately 3m a day.[11] It is now up to approximately the 20th floor. The core is set to reach the 72nd floor by October.[12]

See also



  • Powell, Kenneth; "New London Architecture", (2001, Hugh Merell, London), pp. 218–219.

External links

Coordinates: 51°30′16″N 0°5′12″W / 51.50444°N 0.08667°W / 51.50444; -0.08667



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