Europe's tallest building is in London

Europe's tallest building will be officially unveiled in central London on Thursday.

The Shard's tapered design and glass panelling have already made the skyscraper one of the capital's most iconic landmarks.

Just metres from the banks of the River Thames in Southwark, it seems to pierce the sky as it shoots more than 309 metres into the air.

The tower, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, will contain offices, exclusive residences, a luxury hotel, restaurants and a viewing gallery across 72 floors.

There are a further 15 levels which make up the "spire" - six of which have the potential to be used, with another nine exposed to the elements.

The skyscraper is joint-owned by the state of Qatar and the Sellar Property Group, and it was funded by the Qatar National Bank.

It was originally only nicknamed The Shard after Piano described the building as a "shard of glass" in the planning stages, but the name stuck.

The building will inaugurated by the prime minister of Qatar, Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabor Al Thani, and Prince Andrew.

Londoners will be treated to a spectacular laser show to be projected from The Shard shortly after 10pm.

The event marks the completion of the exterior of the building, with work on the inside expected to continue into 2013.

The Shard's tenure at the top of the European height chart is likely to be short-lived, as the 332 metre Mercury City Tower in Russia is set to be completed by the end of the year.

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