The Shard

A Spectacular unveiling of London’s Latest Landmark – but who can actually afford to visit The Shard?

Dashes of green pierce through the sky, slicing across the Thames and ricocheting off the buildings that make London’s skyline the most famous on earth.

Hundreds of people line Blackfriars Bridge hustling to pinch the best spot, and though drowned out by the sounds of taxi engines, we are told the Philharmonic Orchestra is playing –  It’s the welcoming party for the newest edition to the architectural clan –Renzo Piano’s The Shard.

Costing £450 million, 95% of which was funded by Qatar, the Shard – standing at 310 metres is the tallest building in Europe and has 72 floors, 11,000 glass panels, 44 lifts and 306 flights of stairs.

Towering over the Thames, where the Queen bobbed along in the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant just a month ago, the Shard is positioned not just in London, but in a view that defines London.

Our history is written above these banks , it is the buildings in our skyline that tell our story – from the Great Fire of London, to the Blitz , to IRA bombings – the view is, as architect Sir Terry Farrell stated at the Wrengeneration talk in St Brides last week, “A testament to the character of the English.”

Built on what was the Southwark Towers, the Shard, which was opened by Prince Andrew, will be a constant reminder of 2012; a year that has both seen our Monarch’s 60th year in power and will see the London Olympic games.

Former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, told Radio Four that the Shard will be London’s ‘equivalent to the Empire State Building’, but that unlike many tall buildings ‘Londoner’s will have access to this one.’ But will they?

A ticket for ‘The View from the Shard’, which will open next February, will give you a 360 degree views (from nearly 250 metres) of the city below, and will set you back £24.95. For a family of four, you’re looking at nearly £90.

Which, considering the average income (including tax) is £18,500, or just over £1540 a month, (split four ways -£385) has led to a rather conflicting view to Livingstone’s.

Swarms of messages criticising the ticket’s high price have flooded in online, with many describing it as ‘a fanfare for the common man,’ and as ‘absolutely ridiculous pricing.’

Jen Mockford, 22, who has just moved to London, said: “It’s a real shame. I would have really liked to have gone, but I’ve got my student loan to think about and £25 is just too much.

“It feels like this always happens, something opens and looks like it will be really amazing and then when you find out a bit more, you realise that it’s out of your price range.

“I think they should make it more available to less financially able people, especially students, who are showing an interest. Why should they be deprived of being able to see it?”

There is no mention of different prices for student tickets and children get a discount of just £6.

A ray of green strikes the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, Wren’s 1697
masterpiece and a gasp of appreciation floods through the crowd. Search lights beam down onto the Thames, which ripples obligingly under the glow – It’s 10.30pm and The Shard’s laser display is in full force.

Helen Evans, a mother of three from West London, is one of the Blackfriars Bridge crowd. Though Mrs Edwards is enjoying the show, her views on the hefty pricing for families differ.

She said: “It does seem rather steep. I understand that the building cost a huge sum to build, but I don’t think that entitles them to dictate which members of society can, or cannot visit.

“I have three children and am intending to buy a ticket for the show tomorrow, when the tickets go on sale, but I can see how the amount would deter other families from doing the same.

“Last year, we went on holiday to Paris and I seem to remember a ticket for the Eiffel Tower being far more economical.”

Indeed, tickets for the Parisian landmark are, at last check, 14 euros (£13) – less than half than the Shard is demanding.

Julian Depart, 24, lives in Paris, but has been working in London for over a year.

He said: “I think that it is too expensive. People want to be a part of their countries’ celebrations and this makes it impossible for a lot of people to be involved.

“The Diamond Jubilee was such a nice event, there were so many people out supporting, patriotic people who care for the country.

“Some of these supporters won’t be able to participate in another celebration due to lack of income, and I think that is very sad.”

Petitions have started on social networking sites, demanding for the cost of tickets to ‘The View from the Shard’ to be brought down and BGTW vice-chairman Alistair McKenzie has tweeted that it’s ‘prohibitively expensive.’

So, what will happen when the tickets go on sale tomorrow? Will the outrage continue? Will the common man’s voice be heard and the ticket prices drop? When the chief investor is the Qatari royal family, a family worth an estimated £1.07 billion, you can’t help but feel this will be unlikely.

The Shard is now fully a glow; the orchestra have played their final symphony; the cheers of the crowd have dwindled. Striking in its enormity, stands the latest landmark to join the city’s skyline, which even if we can’t afford to go in, we can appreciate from afar.

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