Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
The Shard, London
Featured January 2014
The Shard was recognized as the "Best Tall Building Europe" in the 2013 CTBUH Awards Program.
Other Featured Tall Buildings
“The skyline of London has been redrawn by this building. It has awoken the enthusiasm for European architectural innovation.”
- Nengjun Luo, CTBUH 2013 Awards Juror, CITIC Heye Investment 

306 m (1,004 ft)
Primary Use
Residential / Hotel / Office

London Bridge Quarter, Ltd.
Sellar Property Group
Design Architect
Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Architect of Record

Adamson Associates
Structural Engineer
WSP Group
Project Manager
Turner & Townsend
Other Consultants
(cost); Permasteelisa Group (façade); Lerch Bates (vertical transportation); RWDI (wind)
The developers of The Shard showed remarkable tenacity in bringing it to fruition. The level of determination to wring economic success and poetics out of the project while still supporting public life at street level was remarkable. Through more than a decade of design revisions and public inquiries, the project team was unwavering in its determination to do more than impose a tall building on a neglected but architecturally rich neighborhood. Their determination was to secure the future of the London Bridge Quarter district itself.

The building is both heroic on the skyline and beautifully executed at the scale of the pedestrian, and clearly prioritizes public transportation over the automobile. The Shard is an amazing accomplishment – few tall buildings in historic city centers have been executed as successfully. It’s rare that a building of this size so clearly reveals itself as the outcome of thoughtful consideration of the future and an abiding respect for its historic surroundings.

At the time of its completion, The Shard became the tallest building in Western Europe. The iconic tower has redefined the London skyline and is already an international symbol for London. A mixed-use “vertical city,” it offers more than 55,000 square meters of office space on 25 floors, three floors of restaurants, a 17-story hotel, 13 floors of apartments and a triple-height viewing gallery, as well as an open-air viewing floor on level 72. It is crowned with a steel-framed pinnacle and clad with shards of glass designed to blend into the sky. Standing next to London Bridge Station, one of London’s busiest transport hubs, at the heart of London Bridge Quarter, London’s newest commercial quarter, The Shard is a key part of the regeneration of London’s South Bank.

The name “The Shard” is derived from the architect’s description of the development as a “shard of glass” during planning stages. Its design was influenced by the irregular nature of the site.

Figure 1. The Shard in context

The tapered form of the building provides efficient and economic floor design, with optimally sized floor plates conducive to its function as a multi-use development. Thus, offices on the lower floor make use of large open-plan spaces with minimal structural intrusion, while the upper floors suit the uses of the hotel rooms and apartments, which require smaller floor plates. Moving further up into the spire, steel beams and columns with elegantly detailed connections help create an aesthetic, open space for the public to appreciate the views.

Figure 2. Floor plan at level 32
Figure 3. Floor plan at level 39

Matching the structure to the different uses allowed efficient use of materials, reducing both cost and the amount of embodied carbon on the project. It also maximized the net lettable area for the client.

Delivering Europe’s tallest tower in record time drove structural engineers and contractors to rethink the basic principles of construction and use new techniques to go higher and faster than had been conducted in the UK previously.

To overcome the challenges of building a skyscraper safely in central London, adjacent to a major transport hub, the team delivered a number of firsts: the first core to be built by top-down construction, the UK’s largest concrete pour, the first use of jump-lift construction, the first inclined hoist in the world, and the first crane to be supported on a slipform. A specially designed laser-guided drilling rig was used to surgically place pilings among Victorian-era underground utilities and ancient archaelogical finds. Top-down construction allowed the first 23 stories of the concrete core and much of the surrounding tower to be built before the basement had been fully excavated. This technique was a world first and saved four months on the complex program.

The distinct tapering form is achieved in five structural parts. From basement level three to the 72nd floor there is a reinforced concrete core. The first 40 floors are a composite steel frame, while a post-tension concrete frame runs up to level 60, with a traditional reinforced concrete frame taking the project to level 72. The spire, to level 87, is made of steel. The mixture of concrete and steel increased the efficiency of the structure. The design negated the need for expensive tuned mass dampers by building the hotel and apartment levels in concrete, sandwiched between the steel office floors and spire.

Figure 4. Elevation sketch

Post-tensioned concrete was more suitable for the smaller spans higher up the building and saved 550 millimeters per floor. The concrete also provided structural damping, thus saving money and weight and releasing a further two floors as lettable space. In addition, fabricated uniform-depth steel beams acting compositely with the concrete floor slabs optimized the space in the ceilings for services.

Figure 5. Observatory
Figure 6. Office floor

The Shard is intended to regenerate and energize South London. The development promotes sustainable travel by including only 48 car parking spaces and features a major refurbishment of the adjacent London Bridge station, which handles 54 million passengers a day.

Figure 7. In context with Tower Bridge

Related Links
CTBUH Skyscraper Center Profile:
The Shard

The Shard was the Best Tall Building Europe Award Winner in the 2013 CTBUH Awards Program.

Download The Shard 2013 CTBUH Awards Book section
2013 CTBUH Awards Book

The CTBUH would like to thank WSP Group and Mace for their assistance with this article.
Photography © Terri Meyer Boake, Steven Henry, Renzo Piano Building Workshop and WSP Group