The Shard tower, Europe's tallest skyscraper, will be inaugurated in London this evening. The huge structure, whose silhouette echoes that of a pointed shard of glass, is set to be a key tourist attraction, particularly with the 2012 Olympic Games coming to London on 27 July.
The tower was designed by Renzo Piano, whose aim was to create a modern multifunctional high capacity construction: a "vertical city." Incidentally, Piano was also the brains behind the Pompidou Centre in Paris. London hopes that the Shard tower will have equal acclaim amongst tourists as the famous postmodern Parisian museum.
Travellers to London can catch glimpses of the Shard's soaring 310m tall tower from across the city. Its innovative scale and design mean that it may well become a new addition to London guidebooks. However, only high budget trippers will be able to have an inside view of the 87 floors; despite having a 12,000 person capacity, the Shard's services only stretch as far as an extravagant five-star hotel, lavish restaurants, 600000 square metres of office space, top-priced flats and chic shops. As result, most travellers will find the Shard out of their price-range.
Reproached for being elitist and overpriced, these are not the only criticisms that Piano's masterpiece has received. Traditionalists from UNESCO argue that the giant compromises the "visual integrity" of the Tower of London, which is one of its World Heritage sites. Nevertheless, the Shard is still expected to be a key attraction and a novelty for the thousands of visitors set to flood London's street for the Olympic Games at the end of July.
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