The Shard Inauguration

- 2012-07-06T08:04:11Z

Photograph by Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

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The Inauguration

For nearly four decades Londoners have debated when, whether and how skyscrapers should pierce the low-rise skyline, presided over by St. Paul's Cathedral since 1711.

The Shard was inaugurated on July 5 after 12 years of permit processes and economic busts. Now its steeply pyramidal form rises 1,016 feet (310 meters) from the London Bridge rail station, and towers over the city. Its exterior is complete and office tenants will soon begin moving in.

The name refers to the tower's tapering icicle shape, designed by Genoa-based Renzo Piano. It's paired with a 17-story office building to form a 2.5-million square foot commercial project called London Bridge Quarter developed by Irvine Sellar, of the Sellar Property Group Ltd. It will cost 1.5 billion pounds ($2.4 billion) when completed and be worth 2.5 billion pounds when fully leased, Sellar said.

Although it's 250 feet shorter than the 80-year-old Empire State Building, it's the first and the tallest of a new crop of skyscrapers planned or in construction in central London.

Piano nudged each side into facets to catch the varying light, and carved deep vertical seams that appear to reveal the building's steel frame. The effect is to make the glass cladding seem ephemeral. The icy planes taper to pincer-like points at the top, visually dissolving the building into the clouds. -- James S. Russell