Europe's tallest building 'The Shard' unveiled in London

The Shard, the tallest building in Europe standing at 309.6 meters (1,016 feet) designed by architect Renzo Piano, has been officially unveiled in London.

The Shard features offices, a luxury hotel and residences, retail space, restaurants, a spa and five stories of public viewing space across 72 floors. There are a further 15 levels which make up the "spire" - six of which have the potential to be used, with another nine exposed to the elements, according to an earlier report by the Telegraph. A viewing platform on the 69th floor will open to the public from February 2013. The building draws its design inspiration from the historic engravings of London where church steeples littered the skyline.

The building is located close to the banks of the River Thames in Southwark. It also features what was described as “a sophisticated use of glazing, with expressive facades of angled glass panes aimed to reflect sunlight and the sky above”. The appearance of the building is expected to change depending upon the weather and seasons.

The name "The Shard" was derived from Renzo Piano's description of the development as a “shard of glass” during planning stages. Inspired by Canaletto's paintings of the Thames and the masts of the tall ships once anchored here, the idea was to create a “kaleidoscope of a building to reflect the city back at itself”.

The skyscraper is joint-owned by the state of Qatar and the Sellar Property Group, and was funded by the Qatar National Bank. The £1.5billion ($2.3 billion) structure was completed in 12 years. Work will continue on the inside of the building to create 10 luxury residences, a five star hotel, three floors of restaurants and office space.

Shangri-la hotel at The Shard

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