Last night, I attending an event to celebrate the completion of western Europe’s tallest building ,The Shard. I was promised a significant occasion, with a laser light show emulating from the building and a performance by the London Philharmonic orchestra. I have to admit, It was a bit lame, but hey free entertainment never the less. Looking up at the building and straining my neck in the process, I had to ask myself, Is the Shard really in the same league as the Gherkin? My answer is; not a chance, it lacks the graceful demeanour of the Sir Norman Foster building and seems out of scale and featureless (not in a good way) by comparison.
I was down at London Bridge at 10:15, following the opening of a very strong Goldsmiths’ MA Degree Show. Standing at the base of this massive building, designed by the Italian architect Renso Piano, it just doesn’t garner the wow effect, that it had on the drawing board. The building viewed close up is more impressive, then from afar. At a distance it looks like a grey concrete spike. It is graceless and awkward. The top looks like it is covered in scaffolding and it sticks out literally like a sore thumb, in an incongruous landscape with very little around it. Up close it has more definition and you can actually see that it has a bit of bevel to the sides. This building is far more suited to a city like Dubai than London . It was built and funded by the state of Qatar. The building will house a combination of offices a luxury hotel and a group of upmarket flats, one costing £50 million. Whether people with that kind of budget would want to live in London Bridge is questionable. It will be interesting to monitor the occupancy of this monumental, 310m high furuncle in the future.
Renso Piano is perhaps best known for his controversial design for the Centre Georges Pompidou, located in the heart of Paris and completed in 1978. Conceived in collaboration with English architect, Richard Rogers and described by Piano as “a joyful urban machine … a creature that might have come from a Jules Verne book,” Beaubourg, as it is called, has become a cultural icon, expressive of Piano’s love of technology. He was born in Genoa in 1937, Piano comes from a family of builders. Following his graduation from Milan Polytechnic Architecture School in 1964, he worked in his father’s construction company and later was associated with the offices of Louis Kahn in Philadelphia and Z.S. Mackowsky in London. He formed Renzo Piano Building Workshop in 1980, which now has offices in Paris, Genoa and Berlin. Words/Photo © ArtLyst 2012