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Laser Light Show Inaugurates London's Tallest Skyscraper
July 6, 2012

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London's tallest building is complete, having been inaugurated with royalty, a foreign dignitary, and a high-wattage laser light show.

The Shard stands 310 meters (1017 feet) tall and towers over London Bridge and the London skyline. In fact, it is the tallest building in Europe. Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, the pyramid-shaped skyscraper was financed to the tune of more than $700 million by the Qatar National Bank. The building got its name because of its similarity to a gigantic glass splinter.

The building has no businesses ready to move in yet, but it has 600,000 square feet of office space and plenty of room for people to live and shop. A full 78 of the 95 floors are set out for living quarters, with 10 exclusive suites expected to be leased for 50 million pounds ($77 million) each. To reach the tower's lofty heights, pedestrians can climb the 306 flights of stairs or use one of 44 elevators.

Also planned are luxury and run-of-the-mill restaurants, a five-star hotel, shops of all varieties, and a huge swimming pool (on the 52th floor). A public viewing gallery will be available as well, on the top four floors, and online interest has already numbered in the tens of thousands. An individual ticket is expected to go for $40 when the viewing area opens in February 2013.

The laser light show, accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, followed the opening by Prince Andrew and the Prime Minister of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani.

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