Things to know about the Shard


The Shard is undoubtedly one of London’s most well-known buildings, and is even considered one of the world’s top ten most beautiful. It’s an iconic building, not only in the city of London, but within the whole of England.



The original idea for the Shard came from Irvine Sellar, developer and joint-owner of this stunning masterpiece. He had the idea to create an architecturally striking vertical city made up of retail, offices, hotel, apartments, restaurants and a public viewing gallery.

He wanted this project to be easily accessible on the London tube network, providing the city with a diverse community right in its centre, with stunning views across the city.

After much searching, Mr Sellar acquired Southwark Towers, occupied by PwC, as an investment in November 1998. He then joined forces with award-winning architect Renzo Piano in the year 2000, who came up with the basis for the Shard over a lunch in Berlin.


The planning process for the Shard was extremely complex, involving a high-profile public inquiry. Further hurdles were presented when the economic crash happened, causing investment for the project to fall through.

However, this was all turned around in 2008 when the State of Qatar came on board as a partner. At this point, construction could begin.

The construction itself was also a challenge, with the team battling sub-zero temperatures, gale force winds and the River Thames breaking through its protective dam. However, by using pioneering engineering methods, the Shard was complete by 2012, when it was officially opened by His Excellency Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabor Al Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar.

Then, in February 2013, the viewing platform was officially opened by London Mayor Boris Johnson.


Architect Renzo Piano took inspiration for the Shard from the spires of London churches and the masts of tall ships depicted by the 18th-century Venetian painter Canaletto. The viewing galleries stand at 240m above street level – the highest in the UK. The summit of the building – its spectacular glass and steel spire at 95 storeys – then stands at 310m.

The eight sloping glass facades, the “shards”, define the shape and visual quality of the tower, fragmenting the scale of the building and reflecting the light in unpredictable ways. Opening vents in the gaps or “fractures” between the shards, provide natural ventilation to winter gardens.

A key aspect that both the architect and developer saw as fundamental to the Shard was the idea of lightness and transparency. Even though it reaches such staggering heights, they wanted it to be an elegant spire in contrast to the bulky high-rises of the city.

They realised that this meant using glass in a highly innovative way. The use of extra-white glass gave the tower a lightness and sensitivity to the changing sky around it. A naturally ventilated facade with internal blinds that respond automatically to changes in light levels was also developed.

The Shard today

The restaurants and bars in the Shard began opening during the summer of 2013, when the first corporate tenant, Duff & Phelps, also moved into the building.

In November of 2013, Her Majesty the Queen and HRH Prince Philip paid a visit to the Shard. Then, in February 2014, The View from the Shard reported that one million people visited the attraction in its first year.

Following this, even more tenants began to move into the building, including Mathys & Squire, Foresight and South Hook Gas. The Shangri-La Hotel then opened in May 2014.

Today, even more corporate clients are based in the Shard, including The Office Group (TOG), global recruiter Robert Half, software giant Sage, international law firm Green berg Traurig Maher (GTM), Khazanah Europe Investments Ltd (KEIL), Medical Protection Society and Sapphire Systems. The broad range of business sectors that now occupy the building expand across 14 sectors.

The Shard is now home to a large retail arcade, many offices, a number of restaurants and bars, the Shangri-La Hotel and of course, the world-famous viewing platform.

The viewing platform

The View from the Shard is the highest viewing platform in London, boasting unparalleled 360-degree views for up to 40 miles.

You need to book tickets in advance for a specific date and time, but once you reach the viewing platform, you can enjoy the experience at your leisure with no time constraints.

In addition, the weather guarantee means that in the event of bad weather you’ll be able to come back for free.