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London has new Eye in the sky

Europe’s tallest building has been officially unveiled in central London. The Shard’s tapered design and glass panelling have already made the skyscraper one of the capital’s most noticeable landmarks. Just yards from the banks of the River Thames in Southwark, it seems to pierce the sky as it shoots more than 1,000 feet into the air.


Tall order: The Shard rises above The London Eye Ferris wheel, London. Pic/Getty Images

The tower, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, has 72 floors which can be occupied, and will contain offices, exclusive residences, a luxury hotel, restaurants and a viewing gallery.

There are a further 15 levels which make up the ‘spire’ — six of which have the potential to be used, with the other nine exposed to the elements. The 1,016ft (309.6 m) skyscraper was inaugurated by the prime minister of Qatar Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, and the Duke of York Prince Andrew.

Andrew said, “I’m extremely pleased to see that this is going to give this quarter of London a huge new boost. And I hope that the people who will come and work here and live around here will truly appreciate the hard work that the entire team have put together.” But the building has angered traditionalists who say it has dwarfed older landmarks such as St Paul’s Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament.

English Heritage, the body responsible for protecting historic sites, says the skyscraper mars a view of St Paul’s, while UNESCO has said it compromises the “visual integrity” of the Tower of London.  

Window washing companies run for the prize
With over 11,000 glass panels, window washers across the country are jostling to land Europe's most lucrative glass-wiping gig. Unlike conventional buildings, which are cleaned by suspended cleaning carts that are automatically lowered floor by floor, the 309.6-metre Shard’s angled facade will require teams of specialist abseilers to bounce down its sheer face wiping as they go. It can cost £150,000 a year to keep the windows clean on a tower such as Canary Wharf. Washing one side can take a week.

No match for the Burj Khalifa
The Shard may now be the tallest building in Europe at 309 metres high but it would be a pretty average skyscraper in Dubai whose Burj Khalifa is more than half-a-kilometre higher. The Burj Khalifa stands at 850m while the Shard stands at 306 m.

306 The number of flights of stairs in the building
44 The number of lifts
72 Number of occupiable floors

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