The view from the top…

Today, I took my family to the Shard, London’s tallest building, to visit the new viewing platform that has opened (called “the view from the Shard”).

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The Shard is a 95-storey skyscraper in London. Its construction began in March 2009; it was topped out on 30 March 2012 and inaugurated on 5 July 2012. Standing 309.6 metres (1,016 ft) high, the Shard is the tallest building in the European Union, and the second-tallest in Europe, after Moscow’s Mercury City Tower.

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The Shard replaced Southwark Towers, a 24-storey office block built on the site in Southwark in 1975. The glass-clad pyramidal tower has 72 habitable floors, with a viewing gallery and open-air observation deck – the UK’s highest – on the 72nd floor, at a height of 245 metres (804 ft).

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Renzo Piano, the project’s architect, met criticism from English Heritage, who claimed the building would be “a shard of glass through the heart of historic London”, giving the building its name, the Shard.

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Piano considered the slender, spire-like form of the tower a positive addition to the London skyline, recalling the church steeples featured in historic engravings of the city, and believed that its presence would be far more delicate than opponents of the project alleged. The building features 11,000 panes of glass, with a total surface area of 56,000 square metres (600,000 sq ft).

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The Shard contains premium office space, a hotel, luxury residences, retail space, restaurants, a five-storey public viewing gallery, and a spa.

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In April 2012, it was revealed that numerous teams of “urban explorers” had climbed the Shard during its construction. Others had Base jumped from the building more than a dozen times in the previous three years.

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On 3 September 2012, a team of 40 people, including Prince Andrew, Duke of York, abseiled from the tower’s 87th floor. This feat was performed to raise money for the Outward Bound Trust and the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund.

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The Shard isn’t London’s least controversial building, and it’s true to say it dominates its surroundings, but I have a certain affection for it. I think when you’ve watched a building go from its concrete core to a finished structure, you have more affection for it. Like the Gherkin, I certainly couldn’t imagine London’s skyline without it now.

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As to the viewing platform, the views are spectacular but it is a useless and pointless location for photography. I could have cried when I saw that the “open air platform” on floor 72 has no roof, but still has glass sides. Ultimately, that means that photos are ruined by reflections, which you’ll see in evidence here. It’s all very well to say “use a polariser” but that doesn’t always work depending on the angle of reflection and that was very much the case here. So, by all means visit, it is fun, the views (to the naked eye) are wonderful, the staff were really friendly. But don’t expect any decent photos!

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Taken with my X-pro1, 14mm and 35mm XF lenses

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