The Shard architecture and skyline landscape symbolic reviews

Salisbury Cathedral, The Shard (with a cross) and the Albert Memorial as Christian architectural symbols in an urban landscape

If you build a skyscaper in London you can expect a shovel of reviews. Here is a selection of opinions about the symbolic impact of Renzo Piano’s Shard on London’s landscape.
Tom Turner: If The Shard had a Christian cross on top most of the critics would change their minds
Nathan Hurst: The Shard is an irregular pyramid with a glass exterior, evoking a shard of glass.
Fergus Feilden: I find the Shard lacks soul
Richard Rogers: The Shard is the most beautiful addition to the London skyline.
Owen Hatherley: The Shard is rammed unforgivingly into Southwark
Peter Buchanan: The Shard is much too big, as is Piano’s building rising beside it, and completely out of character with the surrounding area − the evocation of spires and sails is fatuous.
Simon Jenkins: This tower is anarchy. It conforms to no planning policy. It marks no architectural focus or rond-point.
Paul Finch: Like any icon, the Shard demands attention and has received it in spades from London cab drivers (split views), architects (benefit of the doubt), and the non-fraternity of architectural critics puzzled by this south-of-the-Thames phenomenon.
Terry Farrell: In its overall shape, the tower is to my mind a bit of a 1960s Dan Dare version but as with all Renzo’s buildings it has its own elegance.
Simon Allford: I am delighted to see it standing tall on the skyline in an unexpected place confidently breaking rules.
Patrik Schumacher: The form is insufficiently motivated. The project seems to sacrifice efficiency for the formal purity of the pyramid.
Jonathan Glancey: The Shard is in the wrong place. It would be better off in Shanghai or Dubai.
Aditya Chakrabortty: It’s expensive. It’s off-limits. It’s largely owned by people who don’t live here. And it is the perfect metaphor for what our capital is becoming.
Chris Leadbeater: Henry VIII would be furious. Apoplectic. Red-faced with rage. Heads would surely roll.

Underneath it all, London remains a city of spires: St Paul

My guess is reviewers can be placed in two camps: left-wing and right-wing. Aesthetic conservatives would be happy to see a traditional spire towering of London, as the spire of Old St Paul’s once did. Aesthetic lefties enjoy breaks with tradition and feel sick at the use of a traditional building forms in the twenty-first century. Both groups of critics are happy to sneer at Towers of Mamon and/or at foreign involvement in London. Symbols have a profound influence on aesthetic judgements. While the UK economy has languished for a century, London’s economy has rarely paused since the time of Henry VII. It remains one of the most financially productive places on earth and subsidises what remains of the British Empire (including the North of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.)

The worst view of The Shard is More London in the foreground. It is dissonant ('in the musical sense of 'a combination of notes that sound harsh or unpleasant '). Is the red arm removing a speck of dust from Lord Foster's eyeball?

7 thoughts on “The Shard architecture and skyline landscape symbolic reviews

  1. Christine

    The first thing to be said is that it is a much superior building to the one it replaced.
    [ ] That alone makes it worthy of being built.

    I am not sure if the Shard also improved the visual impact on St Paul’s compared with the building it replaced?

    Secondly, the view of the Shard in shown in the wiki entry is good. Is this a real view that you get from some vantage point? The Shard lit is also good.

    The inclusion of the observation deck is also good. Are there pictures available which illustrate the views from the deck?

    The view from great tower street is interesting – with the perspective giving you a surreal perception that perhaps it is a strange extension of the street you could drive on off into the horizon?

    I am not sure that the Shard quite retains the purity and strength of its sketches? In origin [ ]or design development? [ ]

  2. Christine

    It is probably not the worst view. (It is still an improvement on the modernist buildings peeking through in the background.) But what happens here is there is insufficient contrast between the glassy group of buildings and so they ‘read’ more like a homogeneous mass ie. one big blog of glass. So in this ‘reading’ the strength of the individual forms is lost.

    Foster’s building stands up the best in this group in the context because its form and facade articulation are stronger. (Noting that it is also in the foreground of the view).

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      I think that all the buildings in the ‘foreground group’ are by Fosters. The firm seems much better at ‘objects’ than at the ‘space between objects’. A few weeks ago I was cycling along the Thames in West London and noticed the juxtaposition of curvilinear and rectilinear buildings. Then I noticed the sign on the rectilinear box and discovered that Foster & Partners had designed both. The outdoor space is vacant and slabbed. This is not a visual problem, because the river is such a good thing to look at, but it is not conducive to social use of the outdoor space.

  3. Christine

    Foster does an awfully good box! Albion Riverside is also good, with the glass and solid juxtaposition of the first photograph being particularly strong. The view back the other way, is not as strong (the second photograph). The two buildings as a group are fine, even if the space between needs attention as you say.

    You are right – all the exterior spaces and relationships are virtually non-existent – with only a grey paved surface. (This grey paving seems much less considered than the grey paving by Harry Seidler at the Riverside Centre in Brisbane.)

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      That would be a great epitaph for Lord Norman Foster and I suggest a design competition for his, hypothetical, tomb stone. For design ideas, one could do worse than start with his design of the solid glass National Police Memorial on Horseguards but I would definitely want it to have an epitaph and ‘he did an awfully good box’ would be a prime candidate. The historic examples of epitaphs, below, are nowhere near as appropriate, wonderful though they are:
      Absent from the body, Present with the Lord.
      I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
      I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.
      But many that are first shall be last and the last shall be first.
      Love is eternal.
      I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills.
      Love never ends.
      They gave their today for our tomorrow.
      Gone fishin’
      A gentle man.
      I have fought the good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith.

      I would not regard a transparent block of glass as 100% appropriate for the police but it stands beside ‘A black rectangular creeper-covered enclosure surrounds the air shaft, forming a single block’. So I guess that is OK.


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