The Birth of the Shard

If you take a stroll down Farringdon Road, from Exmouth Market towards Clerkenwell Green, you will come upon a magnificent sight-line into the City of London. It is not until you reach the Betsey Trotwood and the Free Word Centre that St Paul’s Cathedral emerges on the skyline, but from further up the road, a new landmark is emerging – Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers’ Shard of Glass, currently under construction.
Since I work at the Free Word Centre, I regularly happen across this view.  I often take a quick snap with the camera on my phone. Below is an example that has been filtered through
Birth of the Shard, by Yrstruly on InstagramA better attempt with an SLR and telephoto lense is on Flickr:

Birth of the Shard
Birth of the Shard by yrstrly on Flickr

I have found that the damp and foggy days when the building emerges from midst are when the Shard looks most interesting. The giant looms on the horizon, and one’s sense of scale is confused and compressed, which reminds me of the famous photograph by the Liverpudlian photographer E. Chambré Hardman, ‘The Birth of the Ark Royal’, taken in 1950.
Birth of the Ark royal
Photograph of the HMS Ark Royal, taken from the top of Holt Hill in Birkenhead, by Chambré Hardman.

See also the weathered early photographs of Tower Bridge and the Eiffel Tower under construction.  Watching The Shard rise, I have a strong sense of being embedded in history. I know that it will become a symbol of London, like Gherkin and Millenium Wheel, or the pointy Transamerica Pyramid in San Fransisco.  Watching it grow makes me feel like I am sat inside an iconic, historical image.

4 Replies to “The Birth of the Shard”

  1. Very nice too. But how old Chambré Hardman’s mid-century photo looks now, almost deliberately archaic, contrasting hugely with the futuristic lines of the Ark Royal itself. In comparison Alfred Stieglitz’s 1903 picture of the iconic Flatiron Building in New York (one of the earliest skyscrapers, built in 1902) now looks quite modernistic despite being taken 50 years earlier, and is perhaps an obvious comparison with The Shard.

  2. I was fascinated to come across these two pictures together. As a schoolboy of 14, I went with a coachload of my classmates to see the Ark Royal launched. Sixty-one years later, I’m sitting at my desk on the top floor of an apartment on Wimbledon Hill, watching the Shard rise above the local tree-line – that is, when the smog thins sufficiently for me to see it. If Chambre Hardman’s Ark Royal looks ‘deliberately archaic’, then Robert Sharp’s Shard looks positively Dickensian. So much depends, for the photographer, on quality of light!

  3. I have been looking for this photograph for years, my father had a copy of this picture when the house with the side wall directly under the centre of Ark Royal was originally white! The photographer no doubt with the cooperation of that house owner, painted it to match its surroundings. The original white fascia of the house diminished the ghost like image of the ship. thats why its changed. I always remember that image when i was a kid in Birkenhead, Im now 43, living in Asia

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