I’ve followed The Shard’s progress since construction first began in March 2009. But despite being underwhelmed (like most Londoners) by the laser show which marked the building’s official launch, I was curious to attend a preview tour of the galleries this week.
Architect Renzo Piano has previously worked on the Central Saint Giles building, but nothing has redefined our favourite London vistas – the line-up of iconic landmarks visible from Primrose Hill, for example – quite like The Shard.
But what if we reversed the situation and experienced the View From The Shard rather than view of it?
I’d expected to be donning a hard hat for my visit as the official public entrance won’t open until February 2013; we had, after all, to enter the makeshift elevators with a fluro-jacketed contractor, supervised all the way. But the floors and lighting were in place, having been cleaned up especially for my group’s visit.
The View From The Shard begins on level 68, and it was here that I was treated to a view that only a handful of people in the world will ever see: due to the position of the lifts, it’s set to be concealed completely to stop people piling out of the elevator and simply gawping, causing untold problems for ‘elf and safety.
The thrill of seeing this secret view is hard to beat, but one floor up on level 69, there are yet more uninterrupted 360-degree views of London, stretching 40 miles, and this, along with a partially open air viewpoint on level 72, will form the official View From The Shard attraction.
You can circle The Shard at this level, spotting landmarks, buildings and monuments all over London. I felt a special thrill from seeing the BT Tower – once the highest viewpoint in the city – from nearly twice its height, as well as examining the Shard building itself from within.
The view is reminiscent of looking out of an aircraft and the upper floors are so high that helicopters are actually below you.
Visiting at night and seeing London laid out before me, lights twinkling, was an unforgettable experience. In fact, I found it so mesmerising that I slipped into a little reverie. Before my eyes opened at the cost: sky high.