I’ve written lots of genuinely deep and emotionally honest blogs lately. This isn’t going to be like that.
It genuinely started out as a joke, fuelled by a lack of sleep and an irrational dislike of it’s placement, looming over a hospital like a drunk about to pounce on an errant pizza slice on a gravel path. I had no real opinion on it’s architecture, the design, it’s place amongst London’s already hideous skyline, I was perfectly ambivalent to the vile, pointed blight.
Then my loathing developed from sleep addled hysteria into a genuine hatred, eclipsed only by my deep-seated animosity towards Julia Hartley-Brewer and hangnails. And I’m not entirely sure why. I have a geologist friend who now works in civil engineering (whom I used to respect) tell that the Shard is a marvel of modern engineering, a modern wonder, the design of which pushed computer software and the brains of some of the finest minds in the world to the absolute brink. It’s become an icon in it’s own right, dominating the South Bank’s skyline as it stabs at the sky like a hyper child trying in vain to get into a Caprisun. But despite all the rational arguments to the contrary, I hate the Shard and everything it stands for.
Firstly, and most irrational of all, I hate it’s name. The Shard. Shard. You never get good things in ‘shards’, only glass and the remains of your heart after a lover betrays you for the postman. It’s an incredibly sharp word too, evocative only of violence. Now, I do understand that a lot of London skyscrapers get their hilarious names once they’ve been built, christened not by planners but by the famous and massive wits of the city who can come up with such knee-slapping monikers as the Gherkin and the walkie-talkie. Such creativity. But the Shard can’t even blame cockneys, they chose the name early on in the process and it appeared on the hoardings as the tosser was being constructed. I know it looks like a spike of glass, perturbing out the undergrowth and poised to pierce the foot of an unsuspecting German Shephard pup, but is that really the image and feel you want your building to have? A giant ‘fuck you’ to the sky, literally stabbing it’s way through the heavens?
Someone tried to defend the shard to me by saying that it’s an impressive feat, something to be inspired by. The problem with this argument is that it really over-exaggerates how far one can be inspired. I see the Shard, I think it’s very big (too big, but we’ll come to that), and decide it’s inspired me. But to do what, exactly? I can hardly build something like that, I’m not a billionaire and am highly unlikely to ever become one. It’s not a figure of inspiration at all, it looms over London, over the people below, dominating the skyline like a giant hard-on to capitalism. It gives the constant image of aspiration while clearly being out of reach and unobtainable. I’d be more inspired by a well built library, not gonna lie.
It’s ruddy tall is the Shard, that I will not deny. I cannot deny it, or I’d end up no worse than those people who argue about the existence of Global Warming under BBC articles on Facebook. The issue I have with the Shard’s incredible height is how it’s used. A triangle is a strong shape, as Joe Wilkinson once said ‘There’s Strength in Triangles’, and the point of a triangle is going to be teeny weenie. Any pointed traingle building will have wasted space that can’t be used, fact. My problem is that, of the shard’s 95 floors, 22 are taken up with ‘spire’. There’s 4 floors of Shard Observatory (home to London’s best views as they’re not spoiled by the fucking Shard) then 22 floors of ambiguously named spire space. What’s it for? Almost solely height. Nearly 23% of the Shard is given over to a space that isn’t used for anything productive, just so that it can be a big tall building that gets on the postcards. I’m not going to work out how much wasted material that is, how many hundreds of tonnes of glass, steel and concreate went in to the empty void known only as ‘spire’ but I’m going to make a rough guess and say it’s the size of Wales. So much wasted space, materials, money and time, just so we can, as a species, say fuck you to the birds and spit down upon them, flapping below as we drink cocktails in our ‘spire’ space.
Aesthetically, the Spire is boring. Its a spike. Wow. I’ve ranted about this whilst drunk to people who, until then, were my friends, but why are so many modern buildings, especially skyscrapers, so damn boring? I know they’re efficient and sleek and designed to be as aerodynamic as possible to deal with the constant pressures and stresses of the wind and the elements, but c’mon, try a little to make them interesting. I am a huge fan of art-deco architecture, when form and function cuddled each other in a really cute Venn diagram, and I appreciate the effort that went into the design of the great Art Deco skyscrapers of the ’20s and ’30s. I know we can’t use the same techniques or materials, but we can at least try to make our buildings more fun and interesting for me to look at, rather than just an angry stabby stick.
Finally, I think I really dislike the Shard because it’s in London, and everything’s in bloody London. Put it somewhere that actually needs the investment. I’d love to see the UK’s tallest people be in Port Talbot, or Morcambe. Now that, I’d pay money to climb.