By PAUL HARRIS
View from the air: The Shard, glowing gold rises above the London skyline. Twelve lasers and 30 searchlights lit up the night sky, to celebrate the external completion the tallest building in Europe
Europe's tallest building, the Shard on London's south bank, opened tonight with a spectacular light and laser show.
Londoners flocked to rooftops, balconies and public spaces as the tower, which rises to 1,016 feet above the city, was lit in blue, green, purple and gold and lasers probed out across a clear night sky in the capital.
From its uppermost floors on a crystal clear day, they reckon you can see France.
London Bridge station resembles a toy train set at the base of the building and every other landmark in the capital suddenly looks rather stumpy.
Shard close-up: A helicopter captures the 95-storey skyscraper up close as it shines blue and green lasers stretch out into central London
Lasers shoot from the Shard as it towers above a spectacular panorama of central London, with St Paul's Cathedral on the left, Tower Bridge in the centre, and the south bank of the Thames on the right
And so it came to pass, with a fanfare of music and laser light shows, that The Shard took its formal place on London’s skyline last night - as well as a stake in the tourist trail.
This skinny, shiny, pointy addition to an already crowded landscape officially became the tallest in Western Europe yesterday with an inauguration ceremony that has been pending for the last 12 years.
The Shard lights up behind Tower Bridge on the south bank of the River Thames as Europe's tallest tower officially opens
It also set itself up as ‘the new premier visitor experience’, selling tickets today (fri) to allow public access from February to its viewing platform.
But it might not be the altitude that makes you giddy.
At more than £87 for a family of four, a 30-second, 800ft trip in the lift to the 68th floor vantage point works out at more than £10 a foot.
From here, you can gaze out across the Thames towards a neighbouring cluster of other jauntily named buildings such as The Gherkin, the Cheese Grater and the Walkie-Talkie.
Lasers dart out into the night sky from the 1,016 tall skyscraper, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano
The £500million Shard is the newest name in the catalogue.
But why? Answer, according to mayor Boris Johnson yesterday: ‘The Shard is more than just an amazing feat of engineering - it is a towering illustration of London’s determination to beat the recession and spur economic growth.’
He confidently pledged it would act as ‘a huge commercial magnet, creating vital new jobs and pulling in scores of businesses’. How many tenants at the moment?
Er, just one, actually.
Towering above: The view of the Shard, from Southwark Bridge on the Thames
Old and new: The Shard rises above the old city of London. Right, pictured behind the famous Southwark Cathedral
At the last count it was due to open with 26 floors of office space still to let, and a question mark over who might pay around £30million for a flat with a postcode in one of the capital’s grubbiest areas.
But just look at it. The Shard rises dramatically from its site in Southwark, on the southern edge of the Thames, and has been climbing steadily skywards since it became the UK’s highest building 20 months ago when construction took its core to a mere 774ft, more than a yard higher than Canary wharf, and rising.
It’s an undeniably spectacular building that designers planned as a ‘vertical city’ with a hotel, offices, apartments and restaurants. In the sunlight yesterday it glistened magnificently, and when the laser show started, they lit not just the night sky, but some of the other landmark structures nearby.
Yet you can’t help feeling sorry for the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, or the castellated majesty of the Tower of London, both of which have been eclipsed by a 21st century spire of steel, concrete and glass. Especially glass. And no - they still haven’t found anyone to take on the window cleaning contract for those 11,000 glass panels.
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'We have a long heritage and continued commitment to invest and build in the UK for the long term and The Shard highlights this close relationship.'
The skyscraper is part of a 2m sq ft development in Southwark called London Bridge Quarter.
The Shard and its sister development The Place are linked with London Bridge Station through a new central plaza, public realm, bus station and train station concourse.
The Shard’s tenure at the top of the European height chart is likely to be short-lived, as the 1,089ft Mercury City Tower in Russia is set to be completed by the end of the year.
Under construction: The building is seen from London's Canary Wharf in December 2011
Tickets to go up and see the view from 244 metres (800ft) above London will go on sale at 9am tomorrow.
The View from The Shard attraction will open on February 1 next year and more than 17,500 people have already registered their interest online.
Advance tickets cost £24.95 for adults and £18.95 for children and can be booked at www.theviewfromtheshard.com or by calling 0844 499 7111.
A handling fee applies for telephone bookings only.
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