I think The Shard is a remarkable and beautiful structure. London is developing a hotch-potch of high rises and The Shard is striking because of it’s sheer height. It crops up in the eye line of commuters and tourists alike in every corner of the city. But this £1.2bn tower stands largely empty. It tells us a lot about the way our system works.
Firstly consider that price tag. The message we’ve had drummed into us since 2008 is one of austerity. Nothing is affordable anymore, everyone must reign themselves in and we’re all in this together. Except that’s a lie. There’s so much money out there but as always the wealth has cascaded upwards from those who do the work right to the top.
The investors that funded the building clearly aren’t feeling the pinch. But within sight of it many Londoners continue to pay the price of austerity in lower wages, decreased benefits, precarious work and brutal landlords. Within walking distance people continue to struggle just to make ends meet. The Shard should have offices, a top hotel, shops and a private hospital in it by now.
The inefficiencies of capitalism are here for all to see. The mega rich have built something nobody wants to use whilst people suffer without access to the kinds of services that planned to be housed there. Of course those that funded the building will be seeing it as an investment and will hope to make money in the long run but I can’t help thinking of what could be achieved with that level of money.
It’s bizarre to think that we live in a society where our politicians close libraries, hospitals and schools whilst forcing ever more people to rely on foodbanks and yet that same society also has the cash to fund projects of this nature. It’s a reminder not only of how inefficient capitalism is but also of how out of touch the richest people are in terms of human suffering and poverty. One day The Shard will no doubt be full of everything the planners expected but even when that day comes along it will remain a building of the mega rich.