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London's Shard, western Europe's tallest skyscraper, opens viewing platform (VIDEO)


An aerial view of London shows the unfinished Shard skyscraper towering above the rest of the skyline.


Tom Shaw

London's controversial Shard — western Europe's tallest skyscraper — opens its viewing platform to the public on Friday, February 1.

Although only a third the height of the world's tallest building, Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the 1,016 foot-tall Shard has been described as "too tall, too futuristic, too likely to cast its shadow over London's historic monuments," Agence France-Presse reported

(The Guardian gives an excellent graphic comparative here.) 

The building, designed by Italian Pritzker Prize-winner Renzo Piano — who also created Paris' Centre Georges Pompidou and Rome's Parco della Musica — has also been called too costly during tough economic times in Europe, although Qatar financed 95 percent of its 450 million pound ($713 million).

However, project architect William Matthews told AFP:

"The Eiffel tower was a building that was hated when it was built, and now it is much loved by the Parisians. These tall buildings — the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State building — they become symbols that people associate with their city."

The BBC's video tour of the Shard's viewing platform gives a glimpse of the 360-degree views of "London beyond, on a clear day" from 800 feet up.

The platform, on the building's 72nd floor, is open to the elements according to the BBC, designed to give visitors the feeling of flying.

The tour, costing 24.95 pounds (around $40) per adult, includes a showing of documentaries on the city's history.

The price hasn't deterred tens of thousands of people who've pre-booked, according to AFP.

Andy Nyberg, chief executive of The View from The Shard, said:

"It's a natural starting point for exploring the UK's capital."

More from GlobalPost: The Shard: Europe's tallest building inaugurated (VIDEO)