One of the tallest buildings in Europe can be found in London.
From the iconic London Eye to one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in the world, the Gherkin, the skyline of London is full of amazing structures.
The Shard is not different.
In this post, You’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about The Shard, a building in London that dominates the city’s skyline and has become one of its most famous skyscrapers for multiple reasons.
1. What is The Shard?
The Shard also referred to as the “Shard of Glass,” the “Shard London Tower” or the “London Bridge Tower,” is a supertall skyscraper in London.
It’s located in Southwark, London, and is the most prominent building in the “Shard Quarter.”
It has replaced a 24-story office building that was built in 1975 called the “Southwark Towers,” which were demolished in 2008.
The Shard was designed by Italian Architect Renzo Piano who made the building resemble a spire-like structure made of glass rising from the River Thames.
2. Why was The Shard built?
The idea to build The Shard came from Irvine Sellar in 1998, a fashion retailer that became a London-based property developer. He read a white paper the UK government published that encouraged the construction of tall buildings near transportation hubs.
He acquired the site where The Shard would be built in the same year.
A few years later in 2000, he met the future architect of The Shard, Renzo Piano, and they discussed the project over drinks and food in a Berlin restaurant. The story goes that the first sketch of The Shard was made that very day.
Sellar being pretty open-minded about Piano’s unconventional ideas was intrigued and their meeting which resulted in a first visual of the future skyscraper strengthened his motivation to go forward with the plan.
3. Did everybody like The Shard?
The construction plans of The Shard were submitted in July 2002 but faced considerable opposition from organizations such as the Royal Parks Foundation and English Heritage.
Apparently, even the management of St. Paul’s took part in the protests for the fear of the supertall skyscraper casting a shadow over the Cathedral.
This called for a planning inquiry by the then-Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott. Regardless of the protest of mainly Engish Heritage who “didn’t believe The Shard would be an appropriate addition to the skyline in that area,” the plans got approved on November 19, 2003.
4. When was The Shard built?
In September 2006, Sellar and his partners secured funding to go ahead with the plan of building the supertall skyscraper referred to as The Shard.
The first thing they did was buy out the lease of the occupants of the Southwark Towers at that time, the professional services company “PricewaterhouseCoopers.” This was the final step to clear the area before the construction of The Shard could start.
What followed was:
- Planning for the demolition of the Southwark towers in September 2007.
- The start of the demolition of the towers in April 2008.
- The start of construction of The Shard in 2009.
- Completion of construction of The Shard in July 2012.
- Inauguration of The Shard on July 5, 2012.
- Opening of The Shard observation deck on February 1, 2013.
5. How high is The Shard?
The Shard stands 309.6 meters (1,016 ft) tall and the highest point of its steelwork is at 308.5 meters (1,012 ft).
The Shard has a total of 96 floors of which 72 are habitable.
One of the most interesting facts about The Shard is that it’s actually the tallest skyscraper in all of Western Europe. In fact, Russia is at the moment the only country in Western Europe that has taller skyscrapers.
At least for now…
The Shard will be surpassed as the tallest European skyscraper outside Russia by:
- The Varso Tower in Warsaw, Poland – 310 meters (1,017 ft) set to be completed in 2020.
- The Hermitage Plaza building in La Défense in Paris, France – 323 meters (1,060 ft) Set to be completed in 2024.
6. Where is The Shard located?
The UK government published a white paper to encourage the construction of skyscrapers next to transport hubs.
Well, The Shard is located right alongside London Bridge Station, the 4th busiest transport hub in the UK.
The area in the district of Southwark is fittingly called the “Shard Quarter” and is located across the River Thames facing the City of London.
The City of London is the city and county that includes the historical center of London and the primary central business district.
7. What’s the current status of The Shard?
The Shard is an immensely diverse building. It offers just about anything that can be housed in a skyscraper, including:
- A 26-floor office complex.
- 3 restaurants.
- The 5-star Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts.
- Residential apartments.
- An observation deck.
Some of the most notable tenants include the Warwick Business School, one of the most prestigious business schools in the world, and the Al-Jazeerah Media Network, which now operates a newsroom and television studio for Al-Jazeerah English from The Shard.
More interesting facts about The Shard
Curious to learn everything about The Shard?
Below we continue the ultimate list of facts about The Shard and we’re positive there will be a couple you didn’t know yet!
8. Why is it “The Shard” and not “the Shard?”
The owners of The Shard actually made this name for the building official. That’s why “The” is also capitalized in the name.
9. Is The Shard the tallest stand-alone building?
Even though The Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe (at least in early 2020), it isn’t the tallest stand-alone building in the UK.
It’s the second one after the concrete tower of the Emley Moor transmitting station, which is 330.4 meters (1,084 ft) tall.
10. Where does the name “The Shard” come from?
The nickname, which eventually became the official name, The Shard, comes from its resemblance to a pointy piece of glass called a shard.
Another factor is that its design had to resemble the spires of old churches that used to be the tallest structures in the city. So it has a rather nostalgic reason as well.
11. How many glass panels does The Shard have?
The Shard is covered in glass, which gives it its unique look. Amazingly, 11,000 separate panels of glass are used to decorate its outer layer.
This is a total area of 56,000 square meters (602,779 square ft). To give you some perspective, this would be enough to cover over 8 football/soccer fields!
12. Who owns The Shard?
Even though the idea for the construction of The Shard came from Irvine Sellar in collaboration with architect Renzo Piano, Sellar’s company, Sellar Property Group, only owns 5% of the entire building.
The additional 95% of the building is owned by the State of Qatar. They have been the most prominent backers so the project could be realized.
13. Who manages The Shard?
Neither of the two entities owning the building is actually managing it. The management of the building is in the hands of Real Estate Management Limited from the UK.
14. What is “The View From The Shard?”
The View From The Shard is a tourist attraction located on the upper floors of The Shard where visitors can get amazing views of the city of London.
One of the observation decks is an indoor gallery located on the 69th floor, and there is also a partially open-air observation deck on the 72nd floor.
15. How high is The Shard’s observation deck?
The observation deck is located at a height of 244 meters (801 ft) providing amazing views of the city of London.
Before The Shard was built, the London Eye was the highest point for tourists to get views, but the London Eye is only 135 meters tall (443 ft).
Like the view?
The first year that the observation deck of The Shard opened its doors, over a million people visited it!
16. Some interesting facts about The Shard
The total floor area of The Shard is about 398,49 square meters (1,307,383 square ft). There are a total of 44 lifts, including some double-decker lifts.
Are you in for a good exercise? Then you can always take the stairs, there are a total of 306 flights of stairs before you reach the top floor.
17. The Shard has 3 restaurants
If you want to have dinner in style overlooking the London skyline, then you can eat in one of the three restaurants in The Shard.
- Aqua Shard – 31st floor – Serving contemporary British dishes, welcoming guests in a bar with a 3-story atrium.
- Oblix – 32nd floor – Casual dining in a unique setting inspired by the New York skyline.
- Hutong – 33rd floor – Serving Chinese dishes, modeled on the famous Hutong restaurant in Hong Kong
18. In what style is The Shard built?
The Shard is built in a “Neo-Futurism” style. This style represents a movement in architecture and also in art. It started in the late 20th and early 21st century. The style represents an idealistic belief in a better future.
Apart from The Shard, other examples of skyscrapers in this style are the “Turning Torso” in Malmö and the “Evolution Tower” in Moscow.
19. Renzo Piano’s inspiration for The Shard
First of all, Renzo Piano instantly explained that he didn’t really like conventional tall buildings, especially not those in London. He wanted to create something better, especially referencing it to the history of the city.
His inspiration for The Shard came from 3 places:
- The railway lines next to the site that The Shard would be built.
- The church spires that he saw in paintings of the 18th-century Venetian painter Canaletto.
- The masts of sailing ships that pass by on the River Thames.
We can surely understand Piano’s explanation of The Shard representing a spire that emerges from the River Thames, it’s pretty clear if you look at the building from a distance.
20. You can see The Shard from far away
In fact, on a clear day, you can see The Shard from over 64 kilometers (40 miles) away in all directions.
21. A unique engineering method was used
An engineering method called the “top-down” construction method was used to build The Shard. This consists of building up the core even though the foundations are still being dug.
This was the first time this type of method was used in the UK and various innovative construction methods allowed the building to rise at a speed of about 3 meters (9.8 ft) a day.
22. The Shard was opened in style
The opening of The Shard took place on July 5, 2012. It was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani.
The inauguration ceremony that followed was also attended by Prince Andrew, Duke of York.
What followed was a spectacular laser show consisting of 12 lasers and 30 searchlights. Those lighted up the entire building and the skyline of London.
23. The Shard is a green building
The Shard is a building of the future, and therefore the owners have done everything to ensure the building is as environment-friendly as possible.
In fact, 95% of the construction materials used are recycled, and the building is constructed as energy-friendly as possible.
The most important element is the integrated heat and power plant which converts fuel to electricity and recovers heat from the engine to provide the building with hot water.
24. Why does The Shard only have 72 habitable floors?
One of the main reasons there are only 72 habitable floors is the fact there needs to be a security floor every 6 floors.
Additionally, the top 15 floors aren’t used, even though 6 could be habitable in theory. The 9 top floors will be permanently left unused.
25. The hotel in The Shard has an amazing suite
The Shangri-La Hotel that is located in the Shard occupies floors 34 to 52, and on the 39th floor, you can find one of the most expensive hotel rooms in London.
The Shangri-La Suite has everything you need as you can see in the video below, offers the most amazing views of London and you even get your own personal butler.
Price tag: over £10,000 per night. Ouch!
26. A fox witnessed construction from closeby
It must have been a pretty big surprise when construction workers actually found a living fox on the 72nd floor at the end of construction.
They nicknamed him “Romeo” and it’s believed he entered the building through the main staircase and fed himself with leftover food from construction workers.
He was taken to an animal shelter and vet for a checkup and released back into the wild. Apparently, he took a quick look at The Shard and sped off in the other direction. “Not again,” he must have thought.
27. Romeo’s memory lives on at The Shard
Since Romeo‘s adventure of being stuck on the top floor of The Shard during construction, he has become a mascot of the building.
In fact, you can even buy fluffy Romeo’s as souvenirs in some of the shops nearby and you are welcomed by one if you stay in The Shard’s Shangri-La Hotel.
Proceedings of sales are used strictly for charity, so Romeo has done a pretty amazing thing when climbing those stairs.
28. It was used for protest by Greenpeace
The fox isn’t the only unwanted guest that The Shard has welcomed over the years. On July 11, 2013, 6 female Greenpeace members climbed the top and unfolded a flag saying “Save the arctic.”
It took them about 16 hours to reach the top and got arrested by police after they made the trip down in the early morning.
A bit ironic that they chose a building that is made out of recycled materials and is as environmental-friendly as The Shard to protest on, don’t you think?
29. The Shard is home to an amazing penthouse
One of the most amazing spots in the entire building must certainly be the penthouse. It’s located at a height of 224 meters ensuring to offer stunning views over London.
It covers two floors and is the equivalent of a 7-bedroom mansion. Not a bad place to make your bed, right?
It has a price tag though as it’s valued at about £50 million ($77 million)!
30. A mystery man base jumped from The Shard
In March 2016, a mystery man jumped from the top of The Shard, left his parachute on the scene, and ran to the nearest underground train station.
Up until today, nobody knows who the mystery man is and it seems like he will be getting away with it.
31. There was a less fortunate climber as well
A 20-year old named George King-Thompson was arrested and sentenced to 6 months in prison for climbing The Shard, of which he served 12 weeks.
As a great surprise, he was met by his idol, the “French Spiderman” Alain Robert when he got released from prison.
Robert is probably the most famous skyscraper climber in the world and even climbed the Burj Khalifa, at the moment of writing the tallest building in the world.
32. The lifts in The Shard are pretty fast
There’s a reason why people don’t need to climb The Shard, or even use the stairs. It’s because the building is equipped with super-fast lifts.
The lifts in The Shard travel at a speed of 6 meters per second and allow you to get an amazing experience with video ceiling panels.