The Shard: gleaming spire or a monument to London fat cats?

Apr 12, 2012

It looks great against a sunset, but the EU's highest building, just topped out, has its detractors

Oli Scarff

SINCE its earliest conception 12 years ago as an idea scribbled on the back of a postcard in a restaurant in Berlin, the Shard has divided opinion. Now, 11,000 panes of glass and £450 million later, it has stopped growing. The final steel needles have been added to its 500-tonne spire, bringing the building to its full height, 95 storeys or 1,017ft.

But commentators have wasted no time bemoaning Renzo Piano's tower, some even accusing it of ruining London's skyline.
"Don't expect me to be excited," says Giles Coren in The Times. "Having the tallest building in the European Union is hardly an accolade." It's "the most desperate, timid pathetic, childish impotent, small-penised gesture a state can make".

Coren goes on to accuse the Qatari investors in the Shard of buying "the dignity of our great capital".  The Shard, he says, is an "engorged rectilinear monument to fat-cattism"; it mocks our identity and is "a symbol of our failure".      
Ellis Woodman asks in The Daily Telegraph whether there is any vision for London's changing skyline. The Shard may stand alone today, says Woodman, "but what will it look like when hemmed in by such soon-to-arrive neighbours as the Boomerang and the Quill?" Without any clear vision, she warns, the city is "at risk of transforming its riverside into a Costa del Icon", with every new tower competing to be taller and more flamboyant than the last.
But the Shard does have some support. Steve Rose, writing in The Guardian, points out that it features prominently in the latest series of The Apprentice.

The Apprentice loves scrolling expanses of reflective glass and corporate skyscrapers, and Piano's thrusting south-London skyscraper is "110 per cent up its street". But what does it all symbolise, asks Rose. "Who cares? It looks great against a sunset."     
Last word goes to the daredevil who recently scaled the building having slipped past security. In a blog for the Placehacking website, US student Bradley Garrett writes: "Whenever I see the Shard from anywhere in the city, I can't help but smile."

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