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Tallest building in European Union opened in London

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Laser lights shine from The Shard over Tower Bridge on July 5, 2012 in London, England. The European Union's highest building, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, stands at 310 meters.

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The Shard, Western Europe's tallest building, was formally inaugurated in London on Thursday by His Excellency Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabor Al Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar and His Royal Highness the Duke of York. The event marks the physical completion of the exterior of the building, which is fast becoming one of the most recognizable London skyline silhouettes.

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The Shard stands above London Bridge Station on Thursday in London, England. The European Union's highest building is to be formally inaugurated with a laser show this evening.

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Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, HMS Belfast and the Swiss RE (known as the Gherkin) building are visible from the 69th floor of the Shard during its inauguration in London.

The Shard, Europe's tallest building will be officially dedicated. The glass paneling and tapered design have already made it one of London's most iconic landmarks. ITV's Lewis Vaughan Jones reports. 

Carol Grisanti reports in the World News Blog that the 1,016 foot Shard was built at a cost of $2.35 billion:

“It’s a vertical city,” said Renzo Piano, the acclaimed Italian architect who designed the building. A city featuring 28 floors of office space, three floors of restaurants, 10 luxury apartments spread out over 12 floors, a five-star hotel with 200 rooms and a viewing gallery on the 72nd  floor, which will be open to the public.  The finished structure suggests harmony, technical perfection and purity of design in architectural terms.

But try telling that to its detractors -- who say it represents arrogance, power and money as Britain grapples with a double-dip recession and austerity cuts. Critics suspect mega-rich foreigners will be the only people wealthy enough to move in.

See more images of architectural curiosities in PhotoBlog.

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Reaching for the sky, these buildings and towers compete for the world's attention.

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