Europe's tallest skyscraper will be inaugurated today, and has been branded by its developers as "an icon of London." But many are labeling the 310-meter Shard Tower as an icon to foreign intrusion into the city.
It dwarfs nearby historic landmarks including St Paul's Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament, and 95 percent of the funding came from Qatar.
The Shard has a capacity for 12,000 people, and features a five-star hotel, luxury restaurants, 600,000 square meters of office space, and shops. There will also be 10 flats with stunning views on floors 53 to 65 - the highest residential properties in Britain. But they aren't designed for locals. The apartments will cost up to US$50 million (HK$390 million) each.
English Heritage, the body responsible for protecting historic sites, says the skyscraper taints a view of St Paul's, while Unesco says it compromises the "visual integrity" of the Tower of London, one of its World Heritage sites.
"Expensive, off-limits and owned by foreign investors - the Shard extends the ways in which London is becoming more unequal," one commentator observed recently in The Guardian newspaper.