It’s known as the Shard, designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano and at 309 metres the tallest building in the EU, with a wonderful viewing gallery on the 72nd floor and several up-market bars and restaurants as well as a Shangri-la hotel.
Piano himself conceived it as a church spire, which were once the tallest buildings in every town and city, and in the 18th century created the skyline of London itself. Unfortunately, the organisation English Heritage, which looks after around four hundred historical buildings and monuments, referred to it rather hyperbolically as a shard of glass cutting through the heart of London. The name stuck. But in fact Piano, who was after all born in the great port city of Genova, had also always though of his buildings in terms of sails, and of flying, as he said four years ago in a newspaper interview.
Without knowing this, I had always thought of its as a sail. Then, recently, on a water-bus going downstream towards Greenwich an elegant yacht happened to pass and the gleaming white of its beautifully shaped sail was highlighted against a dark and brooding London sky. For an instant, they were perfect twins as if echoing the two towers of Tower bridge.
More than a shard, it reminded me of the shimmering white of the hotel Burj Al Arab in Dubai, designed by the British architect Tom Atkins, especially in the perspective of this photograph which I took from the Jumeirah in 2008. It’s lower, 210 metres, and of course the sail shape is more deliberate. But the highest part of the most is strikingly similar to that of the “Shard”.
The Sail would be a better name, but it's too late now and even Renzo Piano calls it the Shard.