Heart of Glass

 
Kasmira Jefford
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AFTER A 12-YEAR WAIT, Londoners were finally given a preview of the 360-degree panorama from the 72nd floor of the Shard yesterday, at a formal ceremony marking its external completion.

The 95-storey tower designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano has had to overcome major planning battles, fierce criticism and a fractious ownership since it was first conceived.

But yesterday, London Mayor Boris Johnson said the building stood for “the global role and ambition of London” and dismissed critics of the scheme.

“That was what Charles Dickens said in 1836 about what? Big Ben. Nobody would tear down the Houses of Parliament now, well not for architectural reasons”, he said, addressing politicians, executives and reporters who attended the event.

At the wooden-pannelled viewing gallery 245 metres above the ground, visitors will be able to take in views of London stretching out for 40 miles.

Visitors can pre-book tickets at £25 a-go from this morning although the building and its restaurants will not be open to the public until February next year.

The Shard, developed by Sellar Property Group with financing from the State of Qatar, forms part of a wider regeneration project around London Bridge station.

The development cost of the building and the neighbouring area is about £1.5bn.

Qatar has invested £20bn in the UK during the downturn. It is a major investor in the UK’s third largest supermarket Sainsbury’s and also in crisis-hit Barclays.

The building has so far only attracted one tenant, the luxury Shangri La hotel group.

But yesterday its developer Irvine Sellar told City A.M he “was in no rush” and insisted that the tower will be fully-leased by the end of 2014.