Renzo Piano shares his vision for The Shard

A RIBA Royal Gold Medallist and recipient of the Pritzker Prize, his profession’s equivalent of the Nobel, Renzo Piano has established a reputation as one of the most innovative of the world’s leading architects.

It was the concept of creating a Vertical City, not a tall tower, that attracted Piano – he saw The Shard as an opportunity to create an entirely new type of landmark building.

Taking inspiration from the spires of London churches and the masts of tall ships depicted by the 18th-century Venetian painter Canaletto, Renzo Piano designed The Shard as a spire-like sculpture emerging from the River Thames.

The pyramidal form was tuned to the mix of uses that the building contains. On levels 4 to 28, there are offices making use of the large floor plates and directly connected to the busy transport hub at ground level.

Immediately above are three floors of restaurants and bars. The hotel occupies the central section of the building, with the residences above, where the structure is slender enough for apartments to have views on all sides. The final floors accommodate the UK’s highest public viewing galleries, 240m above street level. The spectacular glass and steel spire, 95 storeys up, forms its summit, tapering off and disappearing into the air – a particularly important detail for Piano given the building’s prominence on the London skyline

Nine sloping glass façades – The Shard – defines the shape and visual quality of the tower, fragmenting its scale and reflecting the light in unpredictable ways. Openings in the gaps or ‘fractures’ between them provide natural ventilation to Winter Gardens. Fundamental to Piano’s vision was the idea of lightness and transparency. For all its height, The Shard would be an elegant spire in contrast to the bulky high-rises of the past. Realising this idea involved using glass in a highly innovative way.

The architect’s sophisticated use of extra white glass gives the tower a lightness and a sensitivity to the changing sky around it, meaning The Shard’s colour and mood are constantly altering according to the weather and the seasons. It required a particular technical solution to ensure the façade’s performance in terms of controlling light and heat; a triple-glazed, naturally ventilated façade with internal blinds that respond automatically to changes in light levels was developed.

As part of the project, a section of London Bridge station’s concourse was also redeveloped. The Shard has been the stimulus for much of the regeneration of the surrounding area, now known as Shard Quarter.

This is my vision: I foresee the tower as a vertical city, for thousands of people to work in and enjoy, and for millions to take to their heart.RENZO PIANO, RPBW
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