The press launch of ‘The View from The Shard’ is happening a day later than scheduled. Ironically, the reason for the postponement was the lack of a view from the pinnacle of Western Europe’s tallest building yesterday. Happily, this morning, while London’s skies remain resolutely grey, visibility has improved enough to allow the assembled members of the world’s press to zip up to the top of London’s newest landmark building and enjoy the highlight of the ‘View’ experience… which is, er, the view.
With the public opening of the attraction still four months away, there is still work to be done on its entrance, so we ascend via an elevator which will actually be used to bring visitors down. Either way, it is a two-part journey to the top. The first takes us to the ‘transfer floor’ (level 33) and then its a short walk round the corner to another lift which takes us up to the level 68. The lifts travel at six metres per second so the total journey time is just 60 seconds and, it’s such a smooth ride, that only a slight ear-popping sensation makes you aware of moving up at all.
As the elevator doors open on 68, we get our first impressive view across London, but these windows will actually be blocked off to visitors by a man-made ‘Cloudscape’ because of worries that people will linger in this relatively cramped area rather than move up to the viewing galleries on levels 69 and 72.
Level 72, the highest habitable level of The Shard, at 244m (800ft) is not ready yet, but it will become the highest public observation gallery in London – excitingly, this level will be also be partially exposed to the elements. Today we must “make do” with level 69 which, with its three-storey-high ceiling and 360-degree view, has more than enough wow factor. On a clear day, it is possible to see up to 40 miles across London, to Windsor Castle and beyond. And even on a drizzly, autumn day, the view is absolutely spectacular. Major landmarks clearly visible to the east include the Olympic Stadium, Tower Bridge and the Thames Barrier. St. Paul’s, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace are dotted around below us to the west. Look south for Battersey Power Station. And, look, there’s Wembley Stadium’s signature arch to the north. It’s a truly panoramic view of the city and beyond, and it’s only up here that you can truly appreciate the sheer scale of The Shard. Even The Gherkin nearby looks about the size of, well, a gherkin from the peak of this giant spike in the sky.
To enhance the viewing experience there are Tell:scopes, state-of-the-art digital telescopes that are being used in Europe for the first time, placed around the circumference of the gallery. By shifting the steering mechanism, you can home in on places in your sightline. There are also ‘day’/’night’ options which allow you to pan through recorded footage of how the same view looks in perfect daylight or illuminated at night.
Fully interactive, they are also able to identify places of interest in the user’s sightline and provide information about 200 famous landmarks in 10 languages.
The Tell:scopes have credit card slots, but it has now been decided not to charge visitors extra for their use. A wise choice as the admission prices of £24.95 for adults, £18.95 for children mean a family of four is already looking at the best part of a hundred quid to get in. While there is no time limit on how long people spend inside, Anders Nyberg, Chief Executive of The View from The Shard, says that he expects visitors “to spend an hour on average in the attraction”. Very pricey for the average mum and dad, then, but not incomparable to the London Eye, where tickets range from £17-£37 for adults, and £10-£37 for kids aged 4-15). Nyberg reports that “tens of thousands of tickets” have already been bought since going on sale in July, and a million visitors are expected annually (while a maximum of 400 people can be accommodated in the viewing galleries at any one time, the aim is to keep that figure nearer to 250).
So what else can people expect apart from breathtaking views for their dosh? Nyberg says the idea is “immerse people in London” from the time the approach the entrance on Joiner Street.
Maggie Thatcher on a bike with Karl Marx. Renzo Piano, Christopher Wren, Prince Charles and Richard Rogers judging a sandcastle competition… that sort of thing.
Playful Pythonesque-style illustrations of famous Londoners juxtaposed with each other (Maggie Thatcher on a bike with Karl Marx. Renzo Piano, Christopher Wren, Prince Charles and Richard Rogers judging a sandcastle competition… that sort of thing), video screens showing film footage of city, and digital maps of London will greet visitors. The London Philharmonic Orchestra have recorded a soundtrack at Abbey Road Studios which will to accompany the experience, and a ‘bespoke soundscape to enhance the sense of otherworldliness’ featuring the voices of acclaimed London–based chamber choir, the Joyful Company of Singers is promised in the viewing galleries. And up on level 72, as visitors look up at the shards of glass that form the top of this sculptural building and are exposed to the weather, the sounds of the city below will be amplified around them.
In conversation with architect William Matthews, Project Director of The Shard, also lets slip about another unusual feature: “the loo with a view”. Yes, at the top of the Shard, you will be able to take in the spectacular view while you take a leak. Sadly, the PR person in charge resists the subsequent clamour to check out the bathrooms, but you heard it here first.
And for those of you for whom the high-altitude privy with a panoramic view has tipped the balance and persuaded you to book a visit, the opening times will be 9am-10pm, seven days a week. Matthews, who has spent the last 12 years of his life working on The Shard, has another good tip on that score: “The best time to come is in the evening when the sun is setting. The view is absolutely incredible.”
But what happens if you book on a day when the weather turns out to be so grim that there’s No View from the Shard? “We looked into it and there’s only four or five days per year when there’s zero visibility,” says Nyberg. “Ticket holders will still be able to go up if they like, but they will be invited to come back another time free of charge.”
The Shard is 309.6metres tall (1,016ft).
The Shard has an equivalent floor space of 31.4 acres
The Shard is 95 floors high with 78 habitable floors
The Shard has 11,000 glass panels over an area equivalent to 8 football pitches.
The volume of concrete used is 54,000m3, equivalent to 22 Olympic swimming pools.
The total piles supporting the building would measure 13.7km if laid end to end.
The Shard has 306 flights of staircases and 44 lifts.
The Shard contains the highest residences in Europe and a swimming pool on level 52.
The View from The Shard is the highest vantage point from any building in Western Europe. The attraction features 12 ‘Tell:scopes’, state of the art digital telescopes that are being used in Europe for the first time
The architects claim that the apartments in The Shard, which will sell for tens of millions if they are ever put on the market, were only really included in the building to make it taller.
Follow the progress of The View from The Shard
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