Also known as the ‘Shard’, the recently opened London Bridge Tower, designed by Renzo Piano, is the centrepiece of the redevelopment of the area around London Bridge Station, one of London’s key transport nodes, whose trains, busses and underground rail lines carry 200 thousand passengers a day.
The new skyscraper is not part of an existing cluster of high-rise buildings. Its pyramidal form is a reference to a legacy of visions from the past, such as the masts of the ships docked in the nearby Pool of London and the spiralling steeples of Christopher Wren’s churches, which have been quoted here by Renzo Piano. Its towering, surprisingly light form also does not have an overly pronounced impact on the London skyline but is more of a point of reference for the Southwark area south of the Thames, which is being redeveloped under a local government project. Its form also reflects it accommodating a variety of uses, with large offices up to the 28th floor, a five-star hotel in the middle, and apartments from the 63rd floor upwards. The last four levels, 68 to 72, are open to the public and include a viewing gallery offering 360 degree views of the city. Public access was regarded as essential for such a significant building, while the mix of uses means that it is accessed by people throughout the day.
Eight glass shards define the pyramidal shape of the building, forming eight asymmetric sides that do not touch so as to permit sunlight to enter the building at different times and from different angles. This is built around a central reinforced concrete and metal block, which constitutes the main structural element and houses the lifts. In the interests of environmental sustainability, the passive double skin façade uses low-iron glass and houses mechanized roller blinds in the cavity to provide solar shading. The fractures between the shards provide natural ventilation for the winter gardens, which are positioned throughout the building as meeting rooms and lounge areas for use by office staff.
The architect responded to a request from the City of London to not incorporate car parking facilities to show that it is possible to have high density development in the city while discouraging the use of private vehicles. The tower does, in fact, have only 48 parking spaces, which are reserved for the disabled. The thousands of people who will use the building each day will therefore need to use the public transport available at London Bridge Station, which is virtually incorporated into the base of the skyscraper.
The project also includes the redevelopment of the station concourse, with the replacement of the existing roof with a glazed structure and the relocation of shops to create visual connections between the railway station, bus station and taxi ranks. Once the project to regenerate this area has been completed, there will be two new squares intended to attract the public to this neglected area of the city.