BBC’s Sarah Montague interviews Renzo Piano, the mastermind behind London’s most controversial and newest skyscraper: ‘The Shard’. Prior to the interview, Montague spotted Piano blending into the crowd during the opening of the 310-meter skyscraper “spying” on the onlookers. When asked about this moment, Piano revealed the great advice he received from the prominent Italian film director Roberto Rossellini upon the completion of the Pompidou Center in Paris: “You do not look at the building, you look at the people looking at the building.” It was during this moment that Piano observed “surprise” and “wonder, but not fear” amongst the onlookers – a reaction he seemed to be content with.
Despite Piano’s attempt to refrain from controversy, it is hard to avoid when your design intends to celebrate a “shift in society” as does the ‘Shard’. Change tends to stir mixed emotions and spark debate. However, being part of this “human adventure” as an architect is what Piano finds most rewarding. He states: “You don’t change the world as an architect, but you celebrate the change of the world.”
Today, six months after the laser light extravaganza that marked the completion of The Shard in London, the controversial glass tower celebrated its official opening to the public. Architecture enthusiasts and residents were welcomed to join the mayor of London 244 meters above the capital on the 72 floor observation deck for the official ribbon cutting.
Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, the 310 meter needle-point structure is currently the tallest in Western Europe. The two million square meter mixed-use development offers ample office space, restaurants, a five-star shangri-la hotel and residences.
When the Twin Towers came down 11 years ago (almost to the day), the world was struck numb. Even New Yorkers, who felt the trauma rumble through their veins, couldn’t get past the initial disbelief: how can this be happening? How can something so big, so invincible, actually be so vulnerable?
Hundreds of comments have been hurled at Renzo Piano’s “Shard,” the massive, reflective skyscraper that hulks over the London skyline – it’s big, no, huge; it’s out of the context of its Victorian neighborhood; its exclusive price tag could only be footed by Qatar royalty (as it is) – but few, beyond writing off the tower as a symbol of arrogance or hubris, have stopped to consider its impetus.
For that, we must look at the Shard in the context of 9/11. Only then can the Shard be understood for what it is: the amplification and perfection of the glass tower Piano began in post-9/11 New York, a utopian vision that stands defiantly in defense of the city itself.
In honor of Renzo Piano’s 75th (gasp!) birthday, we offer an update on his latest projects. The septuagenarian has several large-scale works in various stages of construction scattered across the world, and has celebrated the opening of others within this past year. While we have been continuously following the conceptualization, construction and completion of the Shard, Renzo’s talent is sweeping across major cities both in the States and Europe, including: a satellite museum in New York; a cultural hub for Athens; an urban cultural catalyst for Santander, Spain; an interior renovation for Los Angeles; a recently completed museum wing for Boston; plus, a redeveloped brownfield site turned science center for Trento, Italy. No matter the project location, scale, or program, Piano’s ability to craft an architecture with a sense of lightness, strong attention to detail and overall aesthetic elegance sets him in a very particular category of the profession.
So, here’s to a happy 75th and 75 more years of great architecture, Renzo!
More after the break.
The disappointment generated by the Shard’s opening laser light show is not so surprising for a project that has been grounded in controversy for over a decade. Since 2000, when Piano sketched his initial vision upon meeting developer Irvine Sellar, the project has consistently met obstacles such as English Heritage and the financial crash of 2007. But, the biggest opposition of the tower has been its height. English Heritage claimed that the tower, formerly known as London Bridge Tower, would “tear through historic London like a shard of glass” (ironically, coining the new name of the tower), and Piano counters that, “The best architecture takes time to be understood…I would prefer people to judge it not now. Judge it in 10 years’ time.”
Leading us to wonder…does the Shard simply need time to be fully appreciated?
Tonight, Renzo Piano’s Shard will officially celebrate its opening complete with an amazing light show. A dozen lasers and thirty searchlights will beam streams of light across the city, creating a network between 15 other significant landmarks in London, such as the Gherkin, London Eye, Tate Modern, and Tower Bridge. (So, if you are in London, don’t miss the event at 10.15 this evening, and be sure to share some photos with us!)
Capping out at 310 meters, the Shard has become the tallest building in London, as well as the entire European Union. We have been following the history of Renzo Piano’s creation, and although laden with financial troubles, a change in developers, and criticism from Londoners, the project has finally reached completion.
More about the history of the tower after the break.
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.
The 70-story mixed use tower even while under construction is the tallest building in London’s skyline. Adjacent to London Bridge Station, the building offers increased density to a major public transport node, a key to and suggestive of future London development. London based architectural photographer Andy Spain shared with us photographs he took a few weeks ago of The Shard under construction. Be sure to take a look at our previous coverage of The Shard.
More images after the break, including drawings and renderings from Renzo Piano Building Workshop.
Renzo Piano’s Shard is quickly climbing up London’s skyline. The 1,016 ft high skyscraper will provide the mixed use density the city needs, as it incorporates apartments, office space, a spa, hotel and restaurants within its sleek pyramidal form. Inspired by perhaps a ship’s mast from the Pool of London, or a modern take on the church spire, the Shard will become a prominent fixture in the skyline as it nears it completion. Check out these images illustrating the Shard’s progress – the crisp aesthetic commonly found in Piano’s projects is becoming evident as the low-iron glazing is applied to the structure.
More images after the break.
We just featured an article about London’s construction frenzy, which includes over half a dozen skyscrapers for the city. This new era will completely alter the city’s skyline as tall buildings will be sprouting everywhere to house new office, commercial, and residential activities. Of these new structures, Renzo Piano’s 310 meter high mix-used tower, The Shard (be sure to check out our coverage of the tower), will not only become London’s tallest tower, but also the tallest building in all of Western Europe. Of all of London’s new developments, we are excited to see this dynamic tower’s impact on the city and its relationship with London’s context and future neighboring skyscrapers.
We have new images to share from Renzo Piano Building Workshop and more video clips of the construction progress after the break.
Renzo Piano‘s latest project, the Shard, has recently moved to the construction phase. The 1,016 ft high skyscraper will be the tallest building in Western Europe and will provide amazing views of London. The mixed use tower, complete with offices, apartments, a hotel and spa, retail areas, restaurants and a 15-storey public viewing gallery, will sit adjacent to London Bridge station as part of a new development called London Bridge Quarter. Replacing the 1970′s Southwark Tower on Bridge Street, the Shard is a welcomed addition to the London skyline, and its central location near major transportation nodes will play a key role in allowing London to expand.
More about the tower after the break.