Only 24 hours to spend in London; what should I see...? London Advice: British English
Get acquainted with the English you'll hear in London... History: A century of London on film
Video clips starring London, from the 1890s to the 1980s... Music: Reggae & Ska in London
Imported from Jamaica, Reggae and Ska took root in London... Buildings: London's tallest buildings
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The human mole, Stanley Green & the Flying Pieman of Holborn Hill... Who Are Londoners?: Second World War
1940-42, London suffered sustained bombing during the Blitz... Art & Culture: The British Museum
A trip to London minus the British Museum, is a partial trip... Hidden London: Brockwell Lido
For several weeks a year, London temperatures are smoking. Cool in the pool...
Inspired by London's church spires and the sails of former ships which moored on the Thames (no, me neither), The Shard is London's newest and tallest building. Perhaps not the most welcome parallel to draw: but it's triangular form and wide base tapering to a disappearing point, remind me of a house of cards. That's been shrouded in glass. The corners of The Shard are open and the shards don't touch, which helps with air circulation inside the building.
The tower will reach 1,016 feet (310 metres) when completed and has 44 lifts from the ground floor to hurtle you skywards - at least be thankful they're not running up the outside. One of the conditions for its approval was an agreement to sink considerable development capital into the immediate area, with a new concourse and piazza, plus extended and updated transport links (you'll be able to access the Tube directly, from inside The Shard). (For information about London's other tallest buildings - follow the link)
Devised by property magnate Irvine Sellar (who made his mark selling flared trousers to the flower-power generation, in '60s Carnaby Street) and designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano (The Pompidou Centre was an early collaboration); it was squarely opposed by English Heritage for its intrusion on World Heritage Sites.
That's all well and good - but what's going to be in the Shard? And more importantly: what's in it for me?
The Shard - Public Viewing Galleries. Floors 68-72
Uniquely, the Shard will be open to the general public (victory!) who can visit the viewing platforms on floors 68-72 (there's another platform on floor 33). The Shard viewing galleries will offer 360° views across London and are accessed directly from an entrance on the mezzanine level (at below ground level) so visitors don't pass other users of the building. Think: servants entrance. They're expected to attract 1-2 million visitors a year to The Shard and at twice the height of the London Eye, rumours of being able to see the coast on a clear day, may not be pre-launch puffery after all. The Shard has created an early-interest booking form and has also indicated that the likely date of opening is February 2013. To book a visit to the Shard viewing platform, see this page: Shard visit booking form.
The Shard - Offices. Floors 4-28
The Shard offers a huge amount of prime office space - approaching half the year's total for the entire city. Over 45% of the Shard had already been pre-let to Shangri-La for its hotel and Transport for London (floors 4-10). This savoured strongly of a planning consent deal. You can build it if you joosh up the transport links - then our management team will move into the building and the occupancy ball starts rolling. Transport for London were bought out of their lease in 2010, by the building's owners and late into 2012, no business has so far been linked to the Shard. Though this is likely to be supply/demand related, rather than a snub to the building. Presently there's lots of space: unattractive; when it starts disappearing fast: what a beauty! New buildings tend to fill like toppling dominoes.
The offices within the Shard are accessed via a dedicated entrance on the concourse level of London Bridge Quarter. This entrance also benefits from direct access to London Bridge mainline station, the bus station and the Jubilee and Northern lines on the Underground.
The Shard - Apartments. Floors 53-65
Apartments at the Shard are on floors 53-65 and will be the highest residences in the UK. They'll be fitted out in a bespoke manner and price is not mentioned anywhere on vendors' web sites (meaning, you can't afford if you need to ask). Figures of £5m have been quoted as pre-recession fantasy, so perhaps £3-4m is more likely. (Amendment - October 2012, the expected sale price is currently: up to £50m, each. Post-recession fantasy is alive and well.)They'll also benefit from the facilities and services of the Shangri-La Hotel. I expect oil money and perhaps a mirrored ceiling or two with black satin sheets. Tasty.
The Shard - The Shangri-la Hotel. Floors 34-52 (the spa is on floor 52)
The 195-room Shangri-La Hotel, at The Shard, will be accessed by its own entrance on St Thomas Street with valet parking and taxi drop off point directly outside. The 170 deluxe guestrooms, averaging more than 42 sq meters each, will be among the largest in London. Its 25 suites include 2 speciality suites (not specified - what could they be?) and a presidential suite, will offer glass-enclosed "wintergarden" balconies. The hotel also features a Shangri-La Spa on floor 52, which is available to guests as well as the residents and workers in the Shard. If you know someone who starts working here, expect a Spa swipe-card to be left nonchalantly on the table when you meet them in the pub. "Omg. How did that get there!?"
Restaurants at The Shard. Floors 31-33
The Shard will accommodate several restaurants and cafes for residents and visitors alike. With its easy access to London Bridge station, the Shard is expected to be a destination in its own right, with people travelling from across London and the rest of the country to experience the highest view in the United Kingdom. It's taking on the mantle of the now defunct Telecom Tower (Post Office Tower in old money), after its revolving restaurant closed in 1980 and nothing suitably lofty appeared to take its place. Not even half-way up, the restaurants will still look down on the London Eye - so are plenty high enough for most diners. (The Telecom Tower's planned re-opening of the restaurant in 2012 was quietly shelved December 2010 - no reason given.)
Public Space at The Shard
London Bridge Quarter will also include a significant new public square with ever changing art installations, cafes and places for visitors to relax. London Bridge rail station will be improved and a new bus depot, which incorporates 15 routes should ensure transport to the site will be simple from both in and out of town. This area has been dingy for a while, so may well benefit from the rejuvenation - like the 'More' development, near Tower Bridge to the east.
The Shard, 32 London Bridge Street, SE1
Nearest Tube: London Bridge