Friday, 8 June 2012

feature : Piano's Shard Sonority

A short while ago Europe gained its tallest building when the uppermost steel parts of The Shard were lifted into place, but more importantly Londoners were finally able to appreciate this exciting structure in all its dynamic splendour.

The shape of the Shard was offered to Irving Sellar, its developer, in a simple sketch that its Italian architect Renzo Piano quickly produced after being told the building would be mixed use.  Large lower floors for offices with smaller middle floors for a hotel, and the smallest upper floors for apartments.  Piano is an architect who hates “style”, but loves “intelligence”, and talks much about “vibration” and “maybe tension between the place and the built object”.

Now that the Shard has gained its full form, a walk around its base, amongst the contractors and commuters, with neck craned, offers surprises everywhere.  It is multi-faceted far more than I’d imagined, with overlapping corners and planes, but I suppose that is the nature of shards.  I’d made the mistake of reading the Shard as a pyramid with appendages, likening it to one of my favourite American structures: the Transamerica in San Francisco.

But Piano did not want to build another “American fridge”, more something “sharp but subtle”.  To me it’s more a steeple.  So they’re going to open the doors and let in the people.....up to the 72nd floor observation deck.  And what a treat that is going to be, because, if nothing else, architecture constructed in depressed economic times such as we now live in bring hope of a better tomorrow.

As for how the world sees his creation, Piano says we should “judge the Shard in 10 years time”.  In the meantime, we now wait to see the point of it; the point of all architecture: the interior spaces.

by Richard Woollen, guest author

all photos by Richard Woollen

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