UK Markets closed

Shard - London's Tallest Building Unveiled

(c) Sky News 2012

The tallest skyscraper in the EU has been officially unveiled in central London.

A spectacular light and laser show has marked the formal inauguration of the Shard, a gleaming feat of glass and gravity-defying engineering that stands at 309.6 metres high and now dominates the capital's skyline.

A combination of 12 lasers and 30 searchlights lit up the night sky from the 95 storey building, which towers over existing landmarks such as 30 St Mary Axe - "the Gherkin" - and One Canada Square.

The display was accompanied by live music from the London Philharmonic Orchestra and came after a ceremony attended by Qatar's prime minister and the Duke of York.

Rising from the depths of the economic downturn, thanks to an almighty investment from Qatar, the skyscraper has been £1.5bn and 12 years in the making.

First (OTC BB: FSTC.OB - news) sketched on the back of a restaurant menu in Berlin in 2000, the designs received planning approval in 2003, but securing the finances took significantly longer.

Funding stalled during the credit crunch, until Qatar intervened in 2009, taking on 95% of the investment.

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Saoud al Thani, the governor of Qatar Central Bank and chairman of the board of directors of Shard Funding Ltd, said:  "The Shard is the newest London landmark and a beacon of the city of London's resilience and expansion, even during tough economic times."

"It is a symbol of Qatar's belief and commitment to London both today and in the future."

However, the skyscraper's office space has yet to be occupied - it will open with 26 floors vacant, although the developers say they are in discussion with a number of companies to fill them.

Rents for the best offices in London's financial district - the yardstick used by Shard developer Irvine Sellar for the offices at the bottom of the tower - have been £55 per square foot since September 2010, property consultant CBRE said.

That is the longest period rents have not risen since records began in 1960.

Irvine Sellar, the chairman of Sellar Property, said: "The Shard is an iconic addition to the capital's skyline and will be one that all of London can access and enjoy."

"It will become as essential a part of a visit to London as going to the top of the Empire State building is for visitors on a trip to New York (Frankfurt: A0DKRK - news) .

"It will become a new symbol for the city and something London can be proud of.  The Shard is fast becoming one of the most recognisable London skyline silhouettes."

The name "The Shard" is derived from the architect, Renzo Piano's description of the development as a "shard of glass" during planning stages.

Inspired by Canaletto's paintings of the Thames and the masts of the tall ships once anchored here, the idea was to create a kaleidoscope of a building - to reflect the city back at itself.

Renzo Piano told Sky News: "If London is a city of mobile sky, this building is a building of mobile view - it's never the same.

"The shards, instead of being vertical, are at an angle, and so they reflect the sky."

Thursday marks the formal completion of the outside of the building, but work will continue inside to create the ten luxury residences, five star hotel, three floors of restaurants and office space, which will become, in the words of the developers, a "vertical city".

A viewing platform on the 69th floor will open to the public from February next year.