I was invited to check out The Shard this morning. Not the most ideal day for admiring the 360 degree, 40 mile views across London and beyond as it was a little cloudy, but I was impressed nevertheless. I stood at the highest vantage point from any building in Western Europe ahead of the attraction’s official opening to the public on the 1st February 2013.
I went into work really early this morning to get some very important work done before I had a guided tour of the Shard. It was still dark on my walk along the river from Waterloo towards the Shard. I felt like Virginia Woolf who is quoted as saying “To walk alone in London is the greatest rest”.
Is that Big Ben shining behind the Millenium Wheel?
Then, for the first time, on my closer inspection of The Shard, I got a little worried because it really didn’t look at all finished:-
Loving the old and the new – you can just spy the top of the Shard behind the spires of Southwark Cathedral:-
There is not one lift that takes you all the way to the top. You do the journey in several stages. The viewing galleries are on levels 68-72. The lift made my ears pop on the way back down, travelling at 6 metres per second. The roof of the lift is going to show various roofs of London, like St Paul’s Cathedral and then on the way down, suggesting coming back down to earth there will be leaves and trees and other natural flora.
First stop Level 33 where there is are lots of clues about London life written on the walls and floor. Then you take a second lift to level 68 which is 230m high and a transfer floor with obscured windows covered with images of clouds. Then you walk up a floor to the first viewing platform on floor 69 (tee hee – sorry that number always makes me laugh).
Me checking out the state of the art telescopes that are being used in Europe for the first time. They identify places of interesting in your sight line and provide information on 200 landmarks across the capital in 10 different languages:-
I went up with a group of people – one of which was a very cool and trendy 20-something with tattoos and piercings – who then clung on to the side of a pillar as we stepped onto the open air bit and couldn’t move, literally, hanging on for dear life like we were all going to fall to the ground….he had to reverse his way out and down the stairs. Unexpected. Now I’m up here I realise that it was an intentional plan to leave the top open, the concept being to “allow the building to breathe” with each facet forming a shard of glass. Hence the name.
A great experience. I only had one complaint. The Shard has 11,000 glass panels over an area equivalent to 8 football pitches and I have to say that I did feel the need to ask the question about the cleaning of the windows. As a wannabe photographer I was frustrated at the lack of clarity through the glass and my shots reflect that. However, I was reassured that this was because they are still effectively under construction until the official opening and by then their team will embark on ensuring the viewing windows remain spotless. This will take two weeks of people dangling from ropes. Gulp.