Construction History

The history of the Shard is dates back to the year 2000. As you will soon find out, it is a troubled history filled with financial issues, condemnation from heritage bodies and even intervention from the government. The History of the Shard begins in the year 2000, in a restaurant in Berlin.

The full story of the Shard, as told by its architect Renzo Piano, is beautifully described in his dedicated book.

Year – 2000

The first concept of the Shard is created by Renzo Piano in a Berlin restaurant. Renzo was meeting with developer Irvine Sellar who wanted to redevelop Southwark Towers (see below). During the meeting, Renzo sketched the first initial design of the shard on the back of a menu. Renzo Piano’s book


Click here to view Renzo Piano’s other work.

Year – 2002

The design of the Shard is finalised as a mix use, 310 meter tower. Southwark borough council grants planning permission with a completion date scheduled for late 2005.


Cabe and English heritage oppose the project, claiming the tower will disrupt views of other London landmarks, such as St Pauls Cathedral and the Palace of Westminster. English heritage once stated that it would ‘tear through historic London like a shard of glass’, ironically coining the now famous nickname.


Deputy Prime minister John Prescott orders a planning inquiry in response to these concerns

Year – 2003

The planning inquiry into the development of the Shard takes place between April and May. It isn’t until November that Office of the deputy prime minister announces that they had approved construction. The backing of the government is finalised in the release of letter which states:

Mr Prescott would only approve skyscrapers of exceptional design. For a building of this size to be acceptable, the quality of its design is critical. He [Mr Prescott] is satisfied that the proposed tower is of the highest architectural quality.”

Year – 2005

The Shard secures its first major pre-let (tenant), luxury hotel chain Shangri- La hotels. They will occupy close to 20 floors in the building. The luxurious Kuala Lumpur chain of this hotel can be seen below.

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By the end of 2005, relations between the main developers (Sellar, Halabi and CLS holdings) have deterirated over the allocation of stakes in the scheme. This slows down progress in securing tenants.

Year- 2007

The Project is put in further jeopardy due to turbulence in the financial markets, however construction looks set to continue as in November talks commence with Mace to construct the Shard for £350 million. This figure rises by £85 million in under a year.

Preparation for the demolition of Southwark towers (see image below) to make way for the Shard begins.


Year- 2008

The Standoff between the developers is put to an end when, in January, Halabi and CLS Holdings are bought out by a Quatari consortium. The new developers promise to provide finance to ensure construction can go ahead.

Demolition of Southwark towers continues throughout the year. Southwark towers become the tallest buildings in London to ever be demolished.

Year- 2009

February- Demolition of Southwark towers is complete and preparation works for the construction of the Shard begins.

In the same month, the construction contract is signed with Mace, allowing construction to start immediately. Basement works and piling begin in March and continue for several months.

October- The first steel works are visible and concrete pouring begins.

Year- 2010

January- The Core becomes visible at ground level and steel work continues at a rapid pace.


May- The core has reached a height of 80m and is clearly visible on the London skyline.

June- Cladding of the main structure begins.

November – The Shard becomes the tallest building in London and the UK on the 23rd of November. It overtakes 1 Canada square in Canary wharf, which is 235 meters high.

Year- 2011

The core of the Shard reaches its full height in early 2011. The rest of the building saw steady progression throughout the year.

By the end of 2011 the Shard had become the tallest tower in the EU, surpassing Germany’s Commerzbank Tower.


Year – 2012

March – The Steel structure of the Shard reaches its full height when the 500 tonne spire is winched into place.  A ‘test run’ of the spire construction is carried out in a field in Yorkshire before being attached to the building itself. The cladding process is complete and building is externally finished.


June – The Shard is formally inaugurated by the Prime Minister of Quatar. The inauguration features a laser show, with 12 lasers and 30 search lights lighting up the London Sky. Each laser pointed to a different London landmark.

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November – The building is practically completed.

Year – 2013

January – The View from The Shard public viewing platform opens, allowing people to visit the highest inhabitable floors of the building and enjoy the highest observation point in Western Europe.

shard tour

Click here to for more information on the Shard’s viewing platform

If you are interested in other London towers then please visit the Emporis Website which has information on every major tower in the world.