Sunday, 8 July 2012

No, I don't like the Shard

I've watched the Shard go up over the past four years. It's been a major irritation, as it made the traffic south of London Bridge even worse and caused me a lot of time extra time sitting on buses. So it's hard for me to feel like cheering at its official opening this week, whatever Boris Johnson, Ken Livingstone or a bunch of architectural critics tell us.
I will give it its due for being impressive from a distance. It's sleek, shiny and would add something stunning to another skyline. It would look great at Canary Wharf, or on a big brownfield site with hundreds of square yards free around its base

But from close up it's an ungainly imposition. It's unsympathetic to its neighbouring buildings, it wipes out the sunlight in surrounding streets, and its footprint squeezes the life out of the pavements. The area is already crowded, with Guy's Hospital, London Bridge Station and a couple of big tourist attractions drawing in the hordes, and when the the Shard is in full use there will be thousands more people jostling space. It's going to be pretty horrible, and if they ever have to evacuate the building it's likely to create hours of gridlock in a big swathe of South London.

It's a bad building for its location, and is going to be a source of daily aggravation for thousands of people who live and work in the area. But the people who paid for it, built it and allowed the work to go ahead won't be among those who have to put up with the inconvenience, they can gratify their egos and make money from the building, and that's what matters.

It's how things work and I'm too cynical to think things are going to change, but I still get very angry when the buggers tell us we should be grateful.

Mark Say's collection of fiction, Perversities of Faith, is available on and Also check out

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