The Shard pierces London’s skyline — and skewers critics

Updated 11 January 2013
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The Shard pierces London’s skyline — and skewers critics

The Shard — western Europe’s tallest skyscraper — opens its viewing platform to the public on Feb. 1, giving unrivalled views over London and defiantly snubbing critics of the gigantic tower.
The 310-meter (1,017-foot) Shard has been described as too tall, too futuristic, too likely to cast its shadow over London’s historic monuments — and too costly at a time of austerity, even though 95 percent of its £450 million ($727 million, 548 million euros) cost has been financed by Qatar.
William Matthews, project architect for the gleaming, jagged-tipped building designed by Italian super-architect Renzo Piano, dismisses the critics.
“The Eiffel tower was a building that was hated when it was built, and now it is much loved by the Parisians,” he told AFP on a tour of the Shard.
“These tall buildings — the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State building — they become symbols that people associate with their city.”
For Matthews, it was crucial for the public to have access to the new skyscraper.
“It’s not just a private building for a few exclusive people,” he said.
But visitors heading to the viewing decks between floors 68 and 72 will need deep pockets as well as a strong head for heights, with tickets costing £24.95 ($40, 30 euros) per adult.
The relatively steep prices — another criticism frequently levelled at the Shard’s developers — have not deterred everyone, however.
The attraction has taken tens of thousands of pre-bookings and hopes its high-speed elevators will carry up to 1.5 million people each year to the deck, which offers stunning 360-degree views from a height of 244 meters. “It’s a natural starting point for exploring the UK’s capital,” Andy Nyberg, chief executive of The View from The Shard, told AFP.
The attraction includes screens showing documentaries on the city’s history and inhabitants, as well as an introduction to British humor in the form of giant photo montages.
Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister known as the Iron Lady, is shown pedalling alongside her philosophical nemesis Karl Marx on a tandem bicycle. World War II premier Winston Churchill, meanwhile, appears in Union Jack-patterned shorts, his ever-present cigar clamped in his mouth.
Passengers will rise at a speed of six meters a second to reach the viewing platforms — the highest of which is open to the elements — to strains of original elevator music recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra.
On a clear day, they will be able to see for 60 kilometers (nearly 40 miles) around — the River Thames snaking into the distance, along with famous landmarks including Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace.
“It will feel like flying,” promises Piano, whose previous creations include the colorful Center Pompidou art gallery in Paris.
To the east, the city’s other recent architectural additions — the Olympic venues dotted around an area that was previously one of London’s most deprived corners — join the futuristic skyscrapers of the financial district.
And just across the river, standing out from the mass of grey stone buildings with its ochre brickwork, sits the thousand-year-old Tower of London.
Though it is significantly shorter than Dubai’s 828-meter Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, the top of the Shard often disappears into the clouds.
But organizers insist that even those whose visits coincide with a bout of London’s famous drizzle will be able to enjoy the view, using computerised telescopes showing earlier images of the city bathed in sunshine.
Marketed as a “vertical city,” the Shard will be home to offices, luxury shops and restaurants, a five-star hotel and the highest residential properties in Britain.
Developers estimate that the building will have some 8,000 inhabitants once fully occupied.
From ground-level, the view of the tower itself is as striking as the one from its summit. Passers-by provide a telling indication of what the public thinks of the new building, says Piano.
He likes to quote the advice of his compatriot and friend, the film-maker Roberto Rossellini: “Don’t look at the building — look at the faces of the people looking at the building.”


Cosby jury to decide: Serial rapist or con artist’s mark

Updated 24 April 2018
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Cosby jury to decide: Serial rapist or con artist’s mark

  • Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault
  • Before going off to deliberate, jurors will hear both sides rehash the case in lengthy closing arguments

NORRISTOWN: The jury that will start deliberating Bill Cosby’s fate on Tuesday has heard the comedian described over the past two weeks both as a “serial rapist” and a con artist’s victim.
They have seen a parade of accusers testify that the man once revered as “America’s Dad” had a secret life of drugging and violating women. And they have heard from a witness who says his chief accuser talked about framing a high-profile person to score a big payday.
Now, seven men and five women who have been kept in a suburban Philadelphia hotel, away from family, friends and daily routines, will get to have their say in the first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era.
“You now have all of the evidence,” Judge Steven O’Neill told them after Cosby’s side rested on Monday without calling the 80-year-old comedian to the stand. “Try to relax, so that you’re on your game tomorrow.”
Jurors could be in for a marathon.
Before going off to deliberate, they will hear both sides rehash the case in lengthy closing arguments, and they will get O’Neill’s instructions in the law.
Cosby is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault — all stemming from Andrea Constand’s allegations that he knocked her out with three pills he called “your friends” and molested her at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in January 2004.
Each count carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
Cosby has said he gave Constand 1½ tablets of the over-the-counter cold and allergy medicine Benadryl to help her relax before what he called a consensual sexual encounter.
The jury in Cosby’s first trial weighed the evidence for five days without reaching a verdict.
This time, both sides have given the retrial jury much more to consider.
Prosecutors were able to call five additional accusers who testified that Cosby also drugged and violated them — including one woman who asked him through her tears, “You remember, don’t you, Mr. Cosby?“
Cosby’s new defense team, led by Michael Jackson lawyer Tom Mesereau, countered with a far more robust effort at stoking doubts about Constand’s credibility and raising questions about whether Cosby’s arrest was even legal.
The defense’s star witness was a former colleague of Constand who says Constand spoke of leveling false sexual assault accusations against a high-profile person for the purpose of filing a civil suit. Constand got a civil settlement of nearly $3.4 million from Cosby.
Both juries also heard from Cosby himself — not on the witness stand, but via an explosive deposition he gave in 2005 and 2006 as part of Constand’s civil suit against him. In it, Cosby acknowledged he gave the sedative quaaludes to women before sex in the 1970s.
Cosby’s lawyers devoted the last two days of their case to travel records they say prove he could not have been at his suburban Philadelphia home in January 2004. They argue that any encounter there with Constand would have happened earlier, outside the statute of limitations.
Cosby’s private jet records and travel itineraries produced by Cosby’s lawyers do not show any flights in or out of the Philadelphia area in January 2004, but they have large gaps — a total of 17 days that month in which Cosby was not traveling, performing or taping TV appearances.
District Attorney Kevin Steele noted that the records do not account for other ways Cosby could have gotten to Philadelphia.
“You can’t tell us whether he got on a commercial flight,” Steele said, questioning a defense aviation expert. “You can’t tell us whether he got on a train. You can’t tell us whether he got in a car and drove to Philadelphia.”
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they grant permission, which Constand has done.