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Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW), The Shard, London Bridge, London, due for completion 2012 Artistâ€™s impression of the Shard viewed from the southwest.
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below: Artist’s impression of the proposed St Thomas Street to the new London Bridge railway station entrance looking west, showing the Shard in the background.
London Bridge is no stranger to revolution. It was here in 1381 that Wat Tyler and his Kentish mob crossed the Thames during the Peasants’ Revolt and some days later his severed head was impaled on a pike. Today, another spike is marking a different kind of revolution at London Bridge. Rising above London Bridge railway station on the site of the forgettable Southwark Tower, the Shard, designed by Renzo Piano for the Sellar Property Group, is a 310-metre (1,017-foot) high acicular tower that will be western Europe’s tallest building. It is the conspicuous centrepiece in the high-profile regeneration of the station and the surrounding historic district of London Bridge, which marketeers are busily rebranding London Bridge Quarter (LBQ). Regeneration, more than mere development, consciously embraces history and at London Bridge the layers of history run particularly deep, enriching one of London’s most ambitious regeneration projects. Until the 1990s, London Bridge was the City’s piteous neighbour, but with the improvement of the nearby docklands and the establishment of regeneration agencies such as the Pool of London Partnership in 1996, things started to change. The arrival of the Jubilee Line extension in time for the millennium celebrations and the placement of the newly founded City Hall nearby were two major milestones towards the area’s improvement, but the biggest changes (quite literally) are taking place throughout this decade and will transform London for decades to come.
opposite: The Shard under construction, viewed from St Thomas Street.
The first phase is the Shard, a mixed-use building containing offices for approximately 12,000 workers, ‘world-renowned’ restaurants, a 205-room five-star hotel, 5,760 square metres (62,000 square feet) of exclusive residential space, and a public observation deck. The entire project narrowly escaped being scuppered in 2007, before the intervention of a Qatari sovereign investment fund; 80 per cent of LBQ is now Qatari owned. Towering over London’s ancient skyline, the 72-storey Shard has reignited the long-running debate about building heights and sightlines that began in the late 19th century with the 50-metre (164-foot) high Queen Anne’s Mansions near St James’s Park. The legislation that this fabled Babylonian building triggered restricted building heights in London and prevented the capital’s lofty aspirations at a time when the skyscraper was taking off elsewhere in the world. Over a century later, despite London’s more permissive attitude compared with many of its European counterparts, the debate continues to rage. While the Shard’s supporters point to the building’s vitality and its potential to stimulate change, and its detractors see it as another step in the inexorable march of ego-architecture, the Shard, whose construction alone is expected to cost around £425 million, has become the showpiece of a multibillion-pound regeneration scheme. The Shard will be completed in time for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, but the longer term improvements will not be completed until 2018. These include
The Shard as seen from the north bank of the Thames.
the neighbouring 40,000-square-metre (430,556-squarefoot) 17-storey office development, The Place (also designed by Piano), due to open in early 2013, and the complete regeneration of London Bridge railway station, which will start in the same year, transforming the experiences of the 54 million people who pass through it annually. At the heart of the station’s redevelopment is Network Rail’s ambitious £6 billion plan to improve Thameslink, the capital’s only north–south mainline railway service connecting Bedfordshire to the south coast via Central London. A new station concourse at street level on both Tooley and St Thomas streets will accommodate two-thirds more passengers and will help to better integrate the station with the surrounding environment including a new bus station. It will also provide more through-platforms to accommodate a larger number of longer Thameslink trains passing through the station, giving London Bridge frequent and seamless mainline connections with other regenerated transport hubs, including Crossrail at Farringdon and Eurostar at St Pancras. A revolution is under way at London Bridge, but to witness it one has to look beyond the Shard. 1 Text © 2012 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: pp 22–3, 27(t) © LBQ Ltd; pp 24, 27(c&b) © Network Rail; pp 25–6 © Edward Denison
54 The millions of people who pass through london bridge railway station each year
top: Artist’s impression of the Shard viewed from the northwest. centre: Artist’s impression of the proposed Tooley Street entrance to the new London Bridge station. bottom: Artist’s impression of the aerial view of London Bridge station’s proposed Tooley Street entrance showing the Shard in the background.