SOMETIMES I find myself coughing on sawdust on building sites. This – along with hard hats and hi-vis jackets made for adult-sized humans (not five foot nothing ones that still get given Velcro shoes in bowling alleys) – is an unfortunate by-product of touring London’s most exclusive addresses and landmarks before they’re built.
Apart from that, it’s a fascinating insight into the work and preparation that goes into the towers set to dominate our skyline over the next decade.
This week, the Shangri-La Hotel invited me in for a tour of its new home in The Shard. According to a recent YouGov poll, 57 per cent of Londoners think the imposing presence of the 87-storey skyscraper has changed the skyline for the better, meaning attitudes have warmed considerably since it opened at London Bridge in February 2013.
The Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Group’s first hotel in the UK will occupy floors 34 to 52, making it the highest hotel in western Europe. As such, it decided to capitalise on the view. Bars, receptions, kitchens and other practicalities are all situated in the central pillar of the building, so every room and seat has a floor-to-ceiling vista around the perimeter. Appropriately, the business conference rooms overlook the City, but they can also be hired out for private dining or as ballrooms from £7,000.
The 202 guest rooms will be available from £450, rising in price according to which landmarks are visible from your window (a south-facing view of Battersea Power Station is less than an east-facing one of St Paul’s). Bathtubs seemingly teeter on the brink of a terrifying descent, while the swimming pool on the 52nd floor will make you feel like you’re swimming in the sky.
A clear disadvantage of basing a hotel in a triangular tower is, the higher you climb, the smaller your square footage becomes. This means the most expensive penthouses are only halfway up the building because there simply isn’t space for them at the top, meaning a cheaper room may have a better view. Whatever you pay, you get a fluffy toy fox called Romeo, a homage to the bushy-tailed maverick who found his way past security during construction and lived rent free in The Shard for two weeks.
The Shangri-La Hotel takes a risk competing in the five star, deluxe market with a south of the river property with an Asian-theme. It looks like it’s already paying off – the first two weekends are booked to capacity.
The Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard will be opened by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson on 6 May