We have been covering Renzo Piano’s Shard for London throughout its design and construction process. Slated to become the tallest building in Europe, the Shard will make a remarkable impression of the London skyline, dwarfing most of the metropolis as the 1000ft+ tower streamlines toward the sky. The tower has been constructed in an era of economic uncertainty, and although its height alludes confidence and a feeling of power, as it takes shape, many question the motives behind the project and its future implications on the city.
More about the Shard after the break.
To begin, the project was conceptualized and approved while under the client Sellar, a Carnaby Street trader. However, when Sellar could not raise funds, Qatari investors bought 80% of the project in 2008. Qatar ambassadors see the project as a long-term investment and “a symbol of the close ties between Qatar and the UK”. However, others have their take on the Qatar funded project as a political move that serves as an almost unspoken message that since Qatar has invested to much in the UK, the UK will help Qatar if necessary.
Situations such as this put the architect in an odd position, and Renzo Piano has responded to the controversy, “ This is not about money. It is about surprise and joy. This is about the way cities should go. They should stop and we should not go beyond the green belt. If you do this by going vertical that sends a message about conserving land. The building is not about arrogance and power but about increasing the intensity of city life,” Piano told the Guardian.
It is not the intention for the Shard to become an isolated entity purely for the wealth. The tower can provide jobs for those desperatly in search of work, and Piano has always intended that parts of the tower will serve as flexible space for a more public activity.
“Architecture is not neutral, it celebrates something…The Shard will celebrate community, the sense of the city, the sense of exchange. I think the building will become loved in London because it is not arrogant. Normally towers are not loved because they shut down at 6pm and you have a black glass block. This is not about money or power. It is about surprise and joy,” added Piano to the Guardian.
Yet, some feel that the tower could serve the community even more. Nick Stanton, a Liberal Democrat and former leader of Southwark council told the Guardian, “There should be something in this building that the community uses on a daily basis instead of just walking around it. There should be something like a library in it … one of the frustrations I had as leader was the inability to link a big project like this to local outcomes.”
The tower still has a bit to go before its completion, and, perhaps, it will grow to become a symbol that will serve and represent all those in London rather than a select few.