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The Shard

As the tallest building in the UK, The Shard is an amazing feat of modern engineering. Located in London, it stands a dizzying 1,016 feet (306 metres) high.

England is not normally noted for its skyscrapers, but with 95 storeys towering into the sky, the vertical masterpiece is actually the fourth tallest building in Europe and the 96th tallest in the world!



London-based entrepreneur Irvine Sellar had the ambitious idea of redeveloping the Southwark Towers area in 1998, after the government released a white paper calling for taller, high-density developments near transport hubs.

His vision was to develop an architecturally-striking vertical building, containing a mix of apartments, retail space, offices, a hotel, restaurants and a public viewing gallery. The idea was to create a vibrant and diverse community with multiple public areas, so that everyone could enjoy the building and its amazing views.

The 24-storey office block had been constructed on the site in 1975. At the time of the development, Southwark Towers was occupied by major accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers and its 6,000 staff. The accountants later moved out to new premises. Sellar acquired Southwark Towers as an investment property in November 1998 and travelled to Berlin for a meeting with award-winning architect Renzo Piano to discuss his ambitious plans.



Piano, who admitted to normally disliking tall buildings, said afterwards there was something about the beauty of the Thames that appealed to him and he agreed right away to get on board.

The first sketches of the futuristic building were produced over lunch on a menu, according to Sellar. The design was to be a glass-clad tower, shaped like a tall, slim pyramid. It included an open-air public observation deck (The View from The Shard) which was 244 metres high on the 72nd floor.

Piano said the spire-like structure that towers high above the River Thames, was part-inspired by the spires painted by 18th-century Venetian artist Canaletto. Ironically, the building’s name came about as a result of English Heritage’s criticism of the design, labelling it a “shard of glass” piercing London’s historic heart.

However, Piano defended his design and pointed out that tall church steeples featured in historic engravings of London, so he believed it was a positive addition to the capital’s skyline.



Sellar Property Group developed The Shard on behalf of the Jersey investment company, London Bridge Quarter Ltd, with funding from Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company. The State of Qatar owns 95% of the building and Sellar Property Group owns 5%, with Real Estate Management (UK) Ltd managing the property on behalf of the owners.

The building contractor, Mace, was awarded the contract initially at a price of £350 million. However, the costs later increased to almost £435 million.

The architect proposed façades of angled panes of glass to reflect the sunlight and the sky, automatically changing the building’s appearance, depending on the weather. It has a total of 11,000 panes of glass, covering a surface area of 602,779 sq. ft (56,000 square metres). This is equivalent to the area of almost eight football pitches the size of Wembley Stadium!

Energy-efficient, the building has a combined heat and power plant run by natural gas. The fuel converts to electricity, with heat recovered from the engine providing hot water for the whole building.

The Shard was designed on the advice of the US National Institute of Standards and Technology’s report into tall buildings. It will remain stable under various conditions, thanks to its post-tensioned concrete, load-bearing pillars, composite floors and tapering shape that creates a sway tolerance of 16 inches.



The Shard was finally completed in November 2012 and opened with a spectacular lights and laser show. It comprises residential apartments, a 26-floor office complex housing 32 companies across 10 sectors, the five-star Shangri-La Hotel and Resort, the Aqua Shard, Huton and Oblix restaurants and The View from The Shard – the highest viewing gallery in the UK.

Among its business occupants are the Al Jazeera Media Network’s television studio and newsroom, the US recruitment consultancy Robert Half International, Tiffany & Co, the Medical Protection Society and South Hook Gas.



The Shard is a popular tourist attraction, with visitors enjoying the panoramic views from the observatory. The View from The Shard is available for private hire and hosts the Champagne Experience and the highest virtual reality experience in the world.

Visitors can try out the thrilling VR experiences on the open-air sky-deck, including the excitement of travelling at 100mph on the highest virtual slide in the world, in an amazing 360-degree journey. The Vertigo VR adventure gives the feeling of the building falling away, leaving participants suspended in mid-air and walking across the earlier construction stages!

Another phenomenon at The View from The Shard is the silent disco. Three DJs battle it out and customers listening through headsets on separate wireless channels choose the one they wish to listen to – they can then dance the evening away at a height of 1,000 feet.

Meanwhile, the Shangri-La Hotel is a popular venue for weddings, other celebrations and also business conferences.

If you’re looking to visit The Shard, north London-based H&H Van Hire Ltd offers weekend minibus hire services, including nine to 14-seater minibuses – all available at competitive rates!  Please contact us for further details.

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