The Shard, a massive slice of glass-clad steel slicing through the London skyline, is rending deep divisions in public and expert opinion as it makes its formal debut on the global architectural stage.
|The Shard, shown here nearing completion, has cut a divisive path through the thickets of opinion, with some critics complaining it’s the wrong architectural statement in the wrong place at the wrong time.|
The structure, now Europe’s tallest skyscraper at more than 1,000 feet, “has become a lightning rod for criticism even before it officially opens Thursday,” NBC News said prior to an inaugural event planned for the sky-piercing pyramidal tower July 5.
The completed building, designed by the globally acclaimed starchitect Renzo Piano, “represents arrogance, power and money,” the NBC report says, but in light of challenging economic times, it may flay sharp feelings of resentment as much as exclamations of awe.
“Critics suspect mega-rich foreigners will be the only people wealthy enough to move in,” the NBC dispatch adds.
Piano retorts that the design “brings back energy” to England’s capital city, and says it’s a good fit.
“You will feel the building, it has a soul,” he said during a press conference on Wednesday. “It’s never the same; it’s almost like a kaleidoscope, a mirror of London.”
Others disagree, saying it mars London’s history-strewn skyline, detracting from landmarks such as the Tower of London, Parliament and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The Shard, nearly toppled by economic and financing hurdles before Qatar rode to the rescue, soars to a height of 1,016 feet at the tip of its spire, which leaves it in the shadow of nearly 60 other taller buildings around the world. (The Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, is the tallest, at 2,717 feet.)
But in London, it’s big enough to produce awe, indignation and impressions of every color in between.
In ceremonies on Thursday, England’s Prince Andrew called the building a “huge new boost” for London, as he joined business and government leaders in celebrating The Shard’s debut. Later, a light show was planned, with beams to be directed, laser-like, at other London landmarks and skyscrapers.
When fully occupied, the tower will be home to offices, restaurants and a hotel, with a viewing gallery at the summit that is expected to draw more than 1 million visitors a year.
The building, co-owned by England’s Sellar Property Group and Qatar Central Bank, is billed as “the first vertical town in Europe” by Sellar.
“People commuting in London Bridge are now seeing a pleasurable experience opposed to the kingdom of darkness that Renzo described was there before,” the firm’s Irvine Sellar told BBC News.
The tower has been cutting a divisive path through the thickets of opinion for some time. The group English Heritage huffed its disdain by calling it “inappropriate.” Other critics fear a “domino effect” with a procession of modern, cloud-piercing structures marching behind, creating a “wall of steel and glass,” one news report said.
Headlines marking the tower’s formal debut reflected the diversity of opinion:
“The Shard tower: after the Gherkin, a $2.4b. ‘bridge too far,’” said the Sydney Morning Herald, referring to another much-maligned London structure that evokes impressions of the pickle.
“London’s Shard tower opens with empty floors, flat rents,” adds Reuters.
“The Shard would look great in Manhattan—it’s a disaster in London,” clanged the Telegraph of the UK.
Piano is unfazed, disputing suggestions that his creation is a cold, lifeless piece of metal and glass. “It will be a symbol of lightness,” he said in a BBC News report. The tower’s high-tech glass façade will reflect light and changing patterns of the sky, he said.
“After a shower it will become blue. In the evening it will become warmer and more red.”
The owners’ version of The Shard tale can be seen at www.the-shard.com.