The History of the Shard – From Napkin to UK’s Tallest Building

The Shard’s story spans over three decades. It all started in the 1970s when Irvine Sellar – developer and joint owner – had a vision to create an ambitious, visually striking vertical city in England’s capital. After years of gruelling hard work, building assets and acquiring high density developments of his own, in the late 1990s Sellar set out to build a world class skyscraper filled with luxury apartments, offices, shops, viewing platforms and restaurants.


The “Napkin” Design

Original drawing of the Shard, London

Over lunch with award-winning architect Renzo Piano in the year 2000, Sellar convinced the initially sceptical designer to jump on board. Renzo started to sketch on his napkin, and drew a design that is very similar to the Shard we all know and love today. From this moment, the idea was born.


Overcoming Legal Problems

Throughout the following years, Sellar was bombarded by problems. A lengthy planning procedure, a high-profile public inquiry, and an economic crash led many of the initial investors to pull out of the project. However, eight years after that initial lunch, the State of Qatar jumped on board and secured the future of the development. Construction started almost immediately.

When building contractor, Mace, were offered the contract to build The Shard, the price was fixed at £350 million. However, within one year this price increased to £435 million. The majority of the financing was covered by Qatar investors, including the Qatar National Bank, Qinvest, the Qatari Islamic Bank, and the property developer Barwa Real Estate. Since the construction of The Shard, private Qatari investors have been consolidating the whole London Bridge Quarter.


Pioneering Construction

From day one The Shard utilised pioneering methods of construction, most notably the “top down” method, in which the foundations are dug while the core is being built. In addition, The Shard was built with significant consideration to energy efficiency. It contains a combined heat and power plant that operates on natural gas and converts fuel to electricity, which in turn is recovered to provide hot water.

The September 11th attacks forced many architects and structural engineers to re-evaluate the construction of tall buildings; therefore, The Shard was the first building in the UK to adopt new construction standards, including a sway tolerance of 16 inches.


The Result

The shard london

It took four years of hard labour until the building was finally opened for business in a limited capacity in 2012. The official opening was conducted by the Prime Minister of Qatar. At present (2016) The Shard stands at a phenomenal 310 metres, making it one of the tallest buildings in Western Europe. It has 72 habitable floors, 11,000 panes of glass spanning a surface area of 56,000 square metres, and a 500 tonne spire. It is the tallest building in the United Kingdom, the 4th tallest building in Europe, and the 87th tallest building in the world. It’s the pinnacle of London’s skyline and a feat of structural engineering that will be admired for many years.


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