THE SHARD: A vertical city

This one of a kind building began with the vision of a real estate millionaire, Irvine Sellar. His idea was to plan a world-class building that would house all the characteristics of a luxurious city including high-end retail, offices, hotel, apartments, restaurants, galleries and areas where people could halt and enjoy the magnificent view of the city. In March 2000, Erwin hired a world renowned Italian architect Renzo piano and shared all his ideas about the “Vertical City”. This further lead to the conception of this gigantic 309.6 metres (1,016ft) high building called “The Shard”.

Photo by Fred Moon on Unsplash

FACT: Within a few seconds of the discussion, Renzo drew something behind the menu card, which bears a strong resemblance to what we see today as “The Shard”.


Renzo Piano designed a tapering tower with angled planes of glass known as shards. The initial project mix included 25 floors of offices, 22 floors of a hotel complex with a spa and a restaurant, and 13 stories of luxury apartments that now cost around 10 million dollars. Because the site of The Shard London was situated in close proximity to the London Bridge concourse, Renzo conceptualized The Shard as a spire like structure with tapering angled planes of glass (known as shards), emerging from the Thames River.  The entire structure is crowned with a steel framed spire that supports the pinnacle clad with 8 shards of glass. This resulted into a design that blends seamlessly into the sky.

FACT: It took more than 1500 construction workers, 4 years to build nearly 1200 tonnes of steel frame and 50, 000 cubic meters of concrete to turn this dream skyscraper into reality.

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The foundation of The Shard in London was not built like any other conventional skyscrapers. The building is supported by a total of 120 load bearing steel and concrete piles. These piles were pushed approximately 54 meters under the ground. Constructing The Shard in a conventional way would have taken a lot more time, which would have directly affected its costs of construction. To save both time and money, the engineers came up with an innovative idea of constructing The Shard upwards and downwards, both at the same time. While one team excavated down to create the basement, another team simultaneously built the central service core of The Shard which turned up to be the main axis to the top of the building.

Each floor of The Shard was constructed in stages so as to combat the harsh weather conditions and safety concerns. The stages included installation of screens followed by preparation of the framework for the casting of columns which was further followed by preparing a grid of wire mesh that was laid to add additional strength to the slab. The final step included the pouring of concrete and smoothening it until the floor is ready to be walked upon. This process was repeated for each floor on a 6 day cycle. Ventilation in this building has been provided with the help of “fractures” (opening in between the shards). Piano used glass in a highly innovative and climate responsive manner. The glazing of The Shard London keeps changing its colour and mood according to different weather and seasons.

FACT: The total cost of the project was estimated to be around 1.9 billion euros.

Photo by Lisanne Bakker on Unsplash


The Shard height touches up in the sky to almost 310 meters, The Shard in London is by far one of the tallest buildings in Western Europe. Today, the ground floor of The Shard serves as the seating area, the second floor is a 460 square meters of retail space which opens right on to the London bridge concourse, 4th to 28th floors serve as office spaces which are around 55000 sq. meters of area, the 31st to 33rd floors comprise of triple height restaurants, 34th to 52nd floor has been sold out to a hotel chain, Shangri-La hotels which has around 200 luxury rooms across 18000 sq. meters of space. Floor 53rd to 65th consists of 10 ultra-luxurious residences with a mesmerizing 360 degree view across the city. The floors between 68th and 72nd accommodate a viewing gallery for visitors to embrace the glorious beauty of the London city and the London Bridge.