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London's Shard: architectural marvel or enormous salt shaker?

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Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

(Read caption) A view of the iconic Tower Bridge, right, over the river Thames (r.) and The Shard (l.) a newly-constructed high-rise building that is western Europe’s tallest, in London, Wednesday, July 4, ahead of the official Inauguration on Thursday, July 5.

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It's London’s tallest and arguably most controversial tower in a generation which tonight will be unveiled amid a spectacular laser light show.

Standing 310 meters (1,017 feet) tall on the south bank of the River Thames, the Shard has become something of a "love it or loathe it" development, dominating the capital’s skyline opposite the City of London and tourist favorites Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.

The Shard was conceived on the back of a napkin by architect Renzo Piano in Berlin 12 years ago. Since then, developer Irvine Sellar has overcome multiple objections and the credit crunch to build the Shard, which contains a mixture of office space, restaurants, apartments, and a hotel. When he first unveiled his plans, the planning establishment closed ranks with English Heritage and the Royal Parks Foundation objecting, and Prince Charles calling the glass pyramid tower an enormous salt shaker.

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