Europe's tallest completed building celebrates official inauguration this afternoon
On Wednesday 4 July, a cluster of excited journalists gathered on the 14th floor of The Shard for a press briefing in honour of the official inauguration of London’s newest landmark. Architect Renzo Piano, Founder and Chairman of Sellar Property Group Irvine Sellar, QNB Group Chief Executive Officer and Board Member of the Shard Fund Limited Ali Shareef Al-Emadi, and Governor of Qatar Central Bank and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Shard Funding Limited His Excellency Sheikh Abdullah Bin Saoud Al Thani, addressed the international press with a brief overview of the £1.5bn project before opening the floor to questions. Non-equity funding for the project was provided by Qatar National Bank (QNB).
Despite outward appearances, The Shard is not actually complete. Its external shell has now been fully realised however we will have to wait until early 2013 before the building officially opens. Tonight (Thursday 5 July), an inauguration ceremony hosted by His Royal Highness the Duke of York and His Excellency Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabor Al Thani, Prime Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar, will see London Bridge Quarter illuminated with a dazzling laser show. Twelve lasers and 30 searchlights will reach across London in celebration of this monumental event: an official welcoming of The Shard to the capital’s skyline.
Renzo Piano began conceptualising this glittering structure twelve years ago - long before the global financial crisis hit - and compares his approach to the design process to the conducting of a large orchestra. During the press conference Piano referred to the ‘sound’ of The Shard, imploring the cluster of journalists to feel rather than see his latest masterpiece. He also drew links between the external façade of the structure and its place in London’s urban realm, terming the 95-storey tower ‘a mirror of London’. Piano explained that the facets of the building’s facade meant that its appearance on the skyline is ever-changing: like London, it is never remains the same. He concluded: “Up until now the building was ours; from tomorrow it is yours.”
Whilst the majority of Londoners have greeted the 310m tower with open arms, there are some that continue to battle its presence. Hours before yesterday’s press conference, UK newspaper The Guardian ran a comment piece by Simon Jenkins which labelled The Shard ‘an adjunct of Tony Blair’s foreign policy, a cure for erectile dysfunction’ and argued that the building ‘was pushed as a symbol of Britain’s love affair with financial bling at the turn of the 21st century, with ‘iconic’ celebrities and the eff-you greed of arbitrage’.
Like any dramatic new architectural structure - a tall building in particular - The Shard has become a object for some journalists to attack with vehemence. A shining beacon in this turbulent economy, many have focused on the lack of confirmed commercial clients for the office spaces and the fact that the apartments at the top are yet to be put on the market. In response to these attacks, Irvine Sellar claims that he is being ‘extremely selective’ about the occupiers in the commercial space so as not to have a single overpowering tenant and that Sellar Group is ‘holding back [to] evaluate the impact of the building’ before putting the apartments up for sale. Whether buyers can be found for the highest residences in London remains to be seen.
Tonight’s laser show will begin at 10.10pm and will be broadcast live here.