Like a shard of glass piercing the clouds, The Shard was inaugurated July 5 as the tallest building in Western Europe, rising 1,016 feet above the London Bridge Quarter on the south bank of the Thames. With its exterior completed, the tower will welcome its first visitors to The View from The Shard—the highest public viewing gallery in London, offering 360-degree views of the city—on February 1, 2013.

The new quarter is a mixed-use development being created around one of London’s key transport hubs, London Bridge Station. Already a new bus station and train station concourse have been completed, and these will be linked by a central plaza that will open in 2013. This plaza will also link The Shard to its sister building The Place, a new 17-story office building due to be complete in spring 2013.

Also opening in 2013 is the new Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard, London, which will occupy floors 34 to 52 of the new tower. Total meeting space has not been announced, but the hotel’s 195 rooms are expected to be large and luxurious, with suites that will feature glass-enclosed “winter garden” balconies. Food and beverage outlets will include a specialty restaurant, lobby lounge and bar, and a “food theatre” café, with a choice of multiple cooking stations.

The spa and fitness center at the Shangri-La will include an indoor infinity swimming pool and panoramic views of the London skyline.

Referred to as a “vertical town,” The Shard was designed by international architect Renzo Piano. It will encompass 600,000 square feet of offices, three floors of restaurants, the Shangri-La Hotel, 10 Residences, The View from The Shard visitor attraction, and other retail outlets. The Shard is owned by LBQ Ltd., a partnership between majority shareholder the State of Qatar and Sellar Property Group Ltd., with nonequity funding by Qatar National Bank.