London’s latest landmark

The glass-clad Shard already dominates the London skyline and it will be the tallest building in the European Union when completed in 2012. The 310m tower is the glistening centrepiece of Sellar Property’s £2bn project to regenerate the area around London Bridge, long overshadowed by the City of London, its powerful neighbour across the River Thames. Designed by Renzo Piano, the Italian architect, the Shard rewrites the rules of skyscraper construction. Here the FT explains some of the unusual techniques being used to create this ambitious structure.

Crane technology

Special lifting equipment is needed to hoist thousands of tonnes of materials up the tower. As well as having the UK’s tallest crane, at 255m (837ft), the Shard uses a tower crane that sits inside the building’s hollow core, anchored below the top rim.

As the building rises, the crane is gradually jacked up the shaft. In order to get the lead crane down from the roof once the concrete core is complete, developers plan to use the four cranes surrounding the outside of the building. Long-range lifting equipment will be used to dismantle the internal crane and carry it down the outside of the building, bit by bit.

The external cranes will then complete the remaining 15 floors of the building from the ground, finishing by lifting the spire on to the top of the steel frame.

Race to the top

The developers of the Shard are keen to finish the building in the fastest time possible. Armies of builders and engineers have worked 24 hours a day, six days a week to raise the tower at a rate of 30cm an hour at its peak.

The relentless pace of work means the streets around the project have to be carefully monitored. Mace, the project management group, keeps an eye on noise, vibrations and dust levels from 900 monitoring posts in the area.

Animation by Graham Parrish

Glass act

Laid out flat, the 11,000 panes of glass used on the Shard would be enough to cover eight soccer pitches. No two panes are identical which, the Shard’s designers hope, will make the building shimmer.

Each pane is cut by a specialist glass factory in Holland and then slotted on to the tower in a particular order, so as to give the building its cut-glass appearance.

Mixed use

The Shard, London’s new landmark mixed-use building, will be the UK’s tallest building. On completion, it will be 310m (1,016 ft) high with 87 storeys, and will be the European Union’s tallest building.

Spire (floors 75-87)

The steel spire will be craned on to the building once the concrete core and service floors have been completed.

Viewing galleries (floors 68-72)

The public will be allowed to view London from these floors – the highest viewing platforms in the UK.

Residential (floors 53-65)

The 12 floors of apartments will be the highest in London and are expected to be among the most expensive. There are no confirmed buyers but the developers expect the apartments to breach the £6,000 per sq ft achieved at the Candy brothers’ One Hyde Park development in London’s Knightsbridge.

Hotel (floors 34-52)

The luxury hotel group Shangri-La is the only confirmed occupier of the Shard so far and will take on 18 storeys of the building to create a 205-room hotel. The entire top floor of the hotel will be a spa with spectacular views over London.

Offices (floors 2-28)

In 2006, Transport for London signed up to occupy about one-third of the 24 storeys of office space, but was brought out of the lease last year because the developer aims to command higher rents.


This will have direct access from London Bridge station and retail outlets. Some 65,000 cubic metres of earth and rubble were removed to create the three basement floors, which house heating, electrical and lift maintenance equipment.

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