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Born on September 14, 1957, Renzo Piano was always critical of tall buildings, claiming that they were merely an investment in one’s ego. This, however, has changed with the architect’s redesign of Southwark Towers in London. The Shard, a 1,016 foot tall structure, now stands in its place and is being touted as the tallest building in Europe.

Dressed entirely in 11,000 panes of glass and built on an irregular pyramidal base that tapers through the height of the building’s spire, Piano conceived of The Shard as a building that would combine public and private spaces and form an energetic and thriving community.

In his words, “I foresee the tower as a vertical city, for thousands of people to work in and enjoy, and for millions to take to heart in.”

True to that vision, the Shard will house a mix of residents: the UK’s first Shangri-La hotel, 10 apartments, retail space, restaurants, luxury residences and a five-storey public observation deck on the 72nd floor from where visitors can admire views of London from the tallest spot in the city.

The first 28 floors will serve as premium office space, and because the building has been financed by Shariah compliant investments from its Qatari investors, it is unlikely that businesses connected to the alcohol or gambling industries will be granted leases.
Additionally with regards to commercial occupants, the developers, Sellar Property, have stated, “We are being very selective. We don’t want one single, overbearing occupant, we want a mix of media, finance companies, etc.” Commercial leases are currently going for up to £70 per square foot.

The Shard forms part of a larger complex known as the London Bridge Quarter which includes a shorter building known as London Bridge Place built next to the tower. Major improvements to the surrounding rail and subway station are underway and the area is expected to include a public piazza, museum and other businesses. If everything goes as planned The Shard may well serve as the herald of London’s future.
– Shayan Shakeel

First published in the Real Estate Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on September 16, 2012.

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