London's visitors can't miss The Shard, new skyscraper of Olympic proportions

London's visitors can't miss The Shard, new skyscraper of Olympic proportions
Alistair WalshDecember 8, 2020

The 10 million tourists expected to visit London for the 2012 Olympic Games will get to see the city’s latest super-high-rise development, The Shard. That’s because it’s 309.6 metres tall and is the tallest building in Europe. From the top it’s sometimes possible to see the English Channel, 80 kilometres away.

The 95-storey building topped out at the end of March and officially opened on July 5 with a massive laser show.

There are 44 lifts in the pyramid-shaped tower, including some double-decker lifts to carry the maximum number of tourists.

Though if tourists do want to try the lifts out, a family of four will have to shell out a cool £87 to reach the observation deck, 244 metres above the ground.

The tower was first envisioned by British developer Irvine Sellar and architect Renzo Piano, most famous for the Pompidou Gallery in Paris.

The project was then taken up by Sellar, the family trusts of Simon Halabi, a Syrian-born investor, and CLS, a British property business. The global financial crisis put the project in jeopardy but in 2008, a Qatari consortium bought Halabi and CLS out of the project and secured funding to ensure the future of the project.

The Qatari consortium included Qatar National Bank, QInvest, Qatari Islamic Bank and the Qatari developer Barwa Real Estate.

The consortium currently owns 95% of the project.

The construction was originally opposed by English Heritage but in 2003 then deputy prime minister John Prescott approved the project following a public inquiry.

It is reportedly the biggest mixed-use building in London, and the cladding is made of 11,000 panels angled to reflect the sky and change the appearance of the building with the weather.

It was built on the site of the Southwark Tower, a 24-storey office block tenanted by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Sellar told Bloomberg he expects the building to be worth £2.5 billion once it’s fully leased, though to date it has only secured one tenant – Shangri-La will run the hotel on site.

The building will also have 53,350 square meters of office space, 10 luxury apartments and shops.

There will also be three floors of Michelin-star restaurants.

Sellar says no decision has been made on whether to lease or sell the apartments.

He said the total cost of the project was £1.5 billion.

The building won’t be open to the public until 2013.

London skyline photographs courtesy of Flickr.

Alistair Walsh

Deutsche Welle online reporter

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