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SHARD TIMES; Slump means tallest building in Europe opens nearly empty.

Byline: STEVE MYALL

THE Shard hit the big time yesterday as the tallest residential and office building in Europe... with plenty of room to spare.

At 310 metres tall, the 87-storey EUR626million glass-clad tower was officially unveiled as a triumph of planning and engineering.

But, for now, among the few who will get to see its 60-mile panorama of London are guests at the 195-room Shangri-La hotel - the only tenant so far - on floors 34 to 52.

It has at least 26 floors of vacant office space and developers are looking to fill it at a time when most firms are looking to cut costs rather than expand.

The Shard was launched shortly after lunchtime by Prince Andrew and Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, whose country has funded the spectacular landmark to the tune of EUR564million.

The tiny, oil-rich Gulf state has a growing London property portfolio that also includes the famous Harrods department store and the Olympic Village. The opening of the Shard was marked by a laser show and a performance by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

The inauguration marks the completion of the exterior of the building, on the south bank of the Thames at London Bridge, while work on the inside is expected to continue into 2013. The build is a major technical feat, including a glass facade the size of eight football pitches to surround the skyscraper, which has an additional eight floors underground.

It can hold 12,000 people and has 600,000 square metres of office space, luxury restaurants and shops.

Designed and named by Italian architect Renzo Piano, it takes over from Capital City Moscow Tower as the highest in Europe but is still significantly shorter than Dubai's 829-metre Burj Khalifa - the tallest building in the world.

Developer Sellar Property hopes the Shard's viewing decks will become a major tourist attraction when they open in February.

Chairman Irvine Sellar said: "It will become as essential a part of a visit to London as going to the top of the Empire State Building is for visitors to New York." Advance tickets are available from Friday, at EUR31 for adults and EUR25 for children. But not everyone is a fan of the building's futuristic silhouette.

English Heritage, the body responsible for protecting historic sites, says it taints a view of St Paul's, while Unesco has said it compromises the "visual integrity" of the Tower of London.

The Shard replaced Southwark Towers, built in 1975, in one of the poorest boroughs in London. Flats there are likely to sell for up to EUR63.5 million.

310m HIGH SPIRE Floors 75 - 87 SERVICE FLOOR Floors 73 - 74 VIEWING FLOORS 244m Floors 68 - 72 The highest sightseeing platform in British Isles.

SERVICE FLOOR Floors 66 - 67 RESIDENTIAL 186 - 224m Floors 53 - 65 The flats will be the highest and at EUR6,300 per sq ft the most expensive living accommodation in London.

THE SHANGRI-LA FIVE-STAR HOTEL AND SPA Floors 34 - 52 The hotel group is taking 18 storeys and is the only confirmed occupier. 205 luxury rooms are planned with a spa and viewing platform.

121m MID-LEVEL PLAZA Floors 31 - 33 Luxury restaurants.

SERVICE FLOOR Floors 29 - 30 OFFICES Floors 2 - 28 Over half the entire floor space, 54,888sq m will be let for offices.

HOW OTHER TALL BUILDINGS COMPARE SEVEN days... how long workers were given to add each new floor.

31.4 acres of total floor space, or more than 16 football pitches.

180m The height of Europe's tallest crane, used in its construction.

306 flights of stairs.

11,000 glass panels equal to eight football pitches.

54,000m3 of concrete used.

The equivalent to 22 Olympic swimming pools EUR626m Total construction cost.

CAPTION(S):

GIANTJ How Shard dwarfs rest of London's skyline IN THE CLOUDS J Window cleaner VISION Z Mayor Boris Johnson with Renzo Piano
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 6, 2012
Words:644
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