Piercing through the London city’s skyline is “ The Shard ”, a 309 meter architectural and engineering marvel overlooking the perennial River Thames. The tallest building in the United Kingdom and the sixth tallest in the whole of Europe, it was formerly known as The London Bridge Tower as it is located near the London Bridge, in the district of Southwark. The design was conceived by the world-renowned architect Renzo Piano as early as in the 2000s when its property developer, London-based entrepreneur Irvine Seller met with him in Berlin.

The idea was to make the best use of the site and come up with a mixed-use vertical tower. The Shard underwent many challenges since its planning in 2002 and during its construction phase from 2002 to 2012. It finally was put to use in 2013. The Shard houses in itself (from bottom to up)office spaces, restaurants, hotels, apartments, and a public viewing gallery.

The spire, the topmost component of The Shard, which is 60 m tall in itself, houses the viewing gallery, which gives a stunning 360-degree view of the whole of London city. Breathtaking isn’t it? To watch the London Eye, St. Paul’s dome, and the entire city right beneath us through the wall of glass reflecting the vast sky and the bright sun. To those who have experienced this and to those who are yet to visit The Shard, here are some unknown and interesting facts about the sky-piercing masterpiece.

1. The Fitting Foundation

The Shard was constructed in place of The Southwark Towers office block which was demolished in 2008. The piles which were used in the foundation of these towers posed a challenge for the pile construction of The Shard. Removing them was not economically feasible. So, the older piles were retained as such and the new piles were designed in a way.

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2. Efficiently Astonishing

A total of 30 acres of property have been efficiently planned to be accommodated in a single acre site and that is really to be appreciated. The total floor area stands at 1,27,000 square meters. A total of 54,000 cubic metric tons of concrete,11,000 tons of steel, and 11,000 glass panes have been used in this massive construction.

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3. Could The Shard have Reigned the European Skyline as well?

Initially, a tower of 400 m was there in the mind of the property developers before The Shard was even conceived. Had the architect nodded his head for this height of the tower and had there been no opposition from various governing bodies regarding the feasibility of The Shard, then undoubtedly it would have surpassed the 360 m Federation Tower of Moscow, which is the tallest building in Europe( with its spire dismantled)at present. If The Shard had stood first, it would have been another glory to the royal crown of the United Kingdom.

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4. The Shadow of The Shard

The shadow of skyscrapers cast on the neighboring buildings is a thing of consideration when the skyscrapers are proposed. It hinders views, blocks sunlight and ventilation for the users of the adjacent buildings. But surprisingly the designer of this glass marvel claims in an interview, that there is no shadow cast as such by this huge tower on the neighboring buildings because the shadow is cast on the River Thames.

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5. Material strategy

The materials have been layered vertically according to the functional requirements and subsequently the span of the floor plates. From downwards, steel has been used for larger floor plates, concrete in the middle for the intermediate ones, and yet again steel for the smaller ones. Concrete sandwiched in the middle helps to minimize oscillations due to the wind loads and provides stiffness to the building.

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6. Construction of the spire

As there was no lay-down space at the ground level to assemble the structural elements of the spire, the spire was designed in modules. These modules were pre-constructed at an airfield and were shifted to the site to be fixed in place.

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7. What’s so unique about the glass facade?

Instead of the typical green glass, low iron glass also known as the extra white glass in England has been used in the facade which is clear as a crystal, and depending upon the sunlight falling on it, the building, on the whole, looks different, vibrant and changing.


8. Technology at its play

Automated roller blinds controlled by the Building Management System (BMS), have found their way in the glass facade, sandwiched between the triple-glazed panel with a single skin on the outside and a sealed double-glazed unit on the inside. These blinds help to reduce solar gain.


9. The Shard as both a tower and an urban corridor

Taking into consideration the bigger picture, the first few levels of The Shard have been made porous connecting the London Bridge station and The Place building on either side of it. The space between The Shard and The Place has been transformed into an urban plaza. In this view, The Shard in its design aspects has extended from satisfying only the client’s requirements to responding to its immediate context.

10. Prism like form:

The usual rectilinear form of towers was replaced by the prism form, to reduce the area that will be exposed to the wind loads, which will lead to the swaying and vibrations of the building. The prism form produces minimum lateral movement by redirecting the winds effectively and increases the stability of the building by extending below the ground level.

I hope this article gave you informational and interesting facts about the masterpiece. Indeed man-made creations are far more than what an eye can see and these skyscrapers like many other wonders, are not an exemption at all.


Arivukkarasi Manivannan also known as Aazhi is a Final Year Architecture student at Anna University,Chennai.With a passion for writing and the zeal to pursue Architectural Journalism as a profession,she has set out on this journey to reach out to people through her words.She strongly believes in the saying "The pen is mightier than the sword" and she dreams of becoming a writer like her father.

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