The Shard is Qatar’s London land grab

London, UNESCO, The Shard, Qatar, Renzo Piano, Land Grab, Islamic Banking

When Britain’s own financing institutions staggered under the weight of the 2008 economic crisis, a Qatari consortium stepped in to finance The Shard in London- it’s a sleek pyramidal skyscraper designed by Italian starchitect Renzo Piano.

Officially inaugurated amid great pomp and circumstance, the building is small when compared to Dubai’s 2,717 foot Burj Al-Khalifa, but at 1,016 feet, it dwarfs the London Bridge Quarter in which it was built. But far from being a monument to Britain, the latest tallest building in western Europe is 95% owned by the government of Qatar.

The People Said No

During the building’s planning phase, UNESCO warned that its appearance on the city skyline could jeopardize the nearby Tower of London’s world heritage status and residents protested as well, but then deputy Prime Minister John Prescott approved the plans anyway.

“Mr Prescott would only approve skyscrapers of exceptional design,” his office announced in November, 2003. “For a building of this size to be acceptable, the quality of its design is critical. He is satisfied that the proposed tower is of the highest architectural quality.”

The 72-story mixed-use structure wrapped in steel and 11,000 panes of glass has a concrete core and cost in the region of £435 million to build. Within it are office facilities, three floors of restaurants, 10 flats that are on sale for £30-50 million a piece, and a deluxe Shangri-La hotel.

And because the development is backed by Sharia-compliant investment, tenants are subjected to certain rules.

Islamic banks are not permitted to make money from interest, though investors will make their money back somehow. Also, even though on the surface The Shard shouldn’t accommodate businesses that promote gambling or alcohol, it will be impossible to regulate said behavior among the mega-rich – the only people who will be able to afford to frequent the place.

The London Land Grab

The Shard, Qatar, London, Renzo Piano, Residential Tower Qatar, Qatar Land Grab, Qatar-funded Skyscrapers, Urban design

In addition to being a vulgar display of Qatar’s wealth, The Shard’s domination of London’s skyline bears an uncanny resemblance to the land grabs in Africa.

George Monbiot recently exclaimed that peak oil isn’t as imminent as we thought and that we are cheerfully deep frying ourselves as a result, but Qatar is still planning for an eventual end to the heyday of easy oil and gas riches.

Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabor Al Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar and Prince Andrew Albert Edward, the Duke of York inaugurated the towering glass monument together as a symbol of the solid ties between the two nations.

Al Thani, according to a recent press release, stated “that the external investments embody the Qatar 2030 vision; a roadmap to achieve a diversified income that is independent from oil and gas revenues. Therefore, from an investment perspective, this landmark is the path towards realizing our objective.”

Qatar is doing well to secure its future, but at what cost to the locals? Like the Africans who are losing fertile acreage to Qatar and other food-insecure Gulf nations, Britain is losing its historical heritage to the moneymakers.

Writing for The Guardian, Aditya Chakraborrty warns that The Shard is the perfect metaphor for modern London.

So one of London’s most identifiable buildings will have almost nothing to do with the city itself. Even the office space rented out at the bottom is intended for hedge funds and financiers wanting more elbow room than they can afford in the City or Mayfair. The only working-class Londoners will presumably bus in at night from the outskirts to clean the bins. Otherwise, to all intents and purposes, this will be the Tower of the 1%.

Of course, Qatar is not the first country to assert itself outside of its own borders. China practically owns Africa, where it extracts natural resources en masse to keep the giant’s burgeoning population afloat, and Britain was one of the world’s most “successful” colonizers. But now it seems that maybe the tiny island nation is finally getting a taste of its own medicine?

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17 thoughts on “The Shard is Qatar’s London land grab”

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  3. Murtaza says:

    Qatar is a very good country and leading towards modernisation with a fair balance with its cultural and heritage.

    The Emir is very humble and humane. He has realised the need for change and reforms in labor laws and he is personally interested in this matter.

    We all should be faithful and loyal to Qatar and its Emir. This land has given us what our own motherland could not give us. So respect the land and its laws.

    I am in Qatar and i love this place, there are labor issues and hopefully it will be resolved soon.

    God Bless Qatar and its Emir !

  4. raj says:

    hi…they are speaking for democracy in libya in syria.they supported NATO in libya war ,they are supplying arms to rebel in syria. do they know about their home condition.(Libya and Syria its different matter i don’t know who is right and wrong.) Qatar is one of the worst state for human right record. there institution behavior towards migrate labours are racist. i did research in labour right in gulf,for me Qatar has worst scenario for human right record and labour laws,…thank u Karin Kloosterman for your opinion.i hope it will be right. but present scenario is totally different. thank u mr . shetty i like your statement..money is not everything, and money cannot buy happiness and freedom.

  5. Shetty says:

    I would like to request our friend Abdulla to authenticate any information before posting here. I am in Oman and I know that NOC, Exit Permit and 2 year ban still prevails in Qatar. It would be grateful of Mr. Abdulla if he has any authenticate news or article which says NOC system in Qatar has been abolished.

    For Ms. Karin, yes there is an open discrimination among the workers from different countries. Here whites are perceived as more knowledgeable and skillful.

    Also for Ms. Karin, here the question and concern we are sharing is the basic right of a human being, basic freedom to choose better living, freedom to move to own country. Our debate is not about the options to escape the slavery but its very existence in 21st century.

  6. Shetty says:

    I only have to tell one thing. I worked in Qatar for 16 years as HR assistant with a basic salary of 3000 Riyals. I had many opportunities and offers from other companies which were not in any competition to my company. I requested many time to my sponsor for NOC but they always refused and told me we have never given NOC to anyone and we do not want to break our tradition. I had to leave Qatar after 16 years as my last basic salary after 16 years was 5000 riyals only. My company knew that i do not have any choice but to accept whatever they had to offer me. I had to start my career from beginning. I am in Oman now and let me tell you, i feel the freedom here and i live in freedom. There is no slavery system in Oman. No company here ask for NOC, we do not need exit permits. I always felt like a prisoner in Qatar as i could not leave without our sponsors approval and even in emergency i had to suffer a lot. Is this not chain of slavery ?

    I am not against Qatar in any case. I love Qatar and i am grateful to Qatar that i could start my career there.

    All i want to ask you is “Are the Labor laws and existing system human and genuine for people who leave their families and their home countries to build your country” money is not everything, and money cannot buy happiness and freedom.

    1. Maybe not every nationality has to “suffer” the same as you Shetty? Maybe the government is exploiting people from certain countries? I have a friend from Canada who lives and works there as a teacher with superb conditions and a very high salary.

  7. Abdulla says:

    As I answered this question in my past posts Qatar canceled recently NOC law as Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudia on the way too that law applied by coordination with all GCC countries (Arab Gulf Cooperation Council) even they have right to protect their local laws these countries canceled the law because working on protect all sides rights not just companies or workers.

    Also I confirmed that most of these workers does not know their rights and does not know local laws in any country they are going to work in they pay money to greedy local agents in their countries to Get Visa work they don’t care about any thing else Qatar or Gulf Countries is seems haven for these people because they easily can get work there unlike Europe or USA which close their boarders in their faces.

    What MR Ahmed doing is posting links about Qatar and he seems have personal problem with the country itself lol. I said Qatar isn’t the best place but these workers if they was lucky to escape from forced deportation in Europe, USA or Australia they will not need to work in Qatar !! we all saw what happen to minorities in these countries and also Muslim communities for example recently we saw France and Belgium applied new law attended the veil that law applied even on who visit France for Tourism too. Arabs from GCC who visiting France & Belgium for Tourism respecting the new law and women reveals their faces, even that despite the decision violates their religious freedom.

    Another example we are Qataris or Arabs in General & Muslims face racist when we go for tourism in West so can we says what MR Ahmed said about Qatar ( chains of slavery ) !! that not true always their will be who find loopholes in the laws for violating.

    Murder of Qatari student exposes the race hatred rife in Hastings
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/murder-of-qatari-student-exposes-the-race-hatred-rife-in-hastings-912334.html

    http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/uk-town-deals-with-murder-of-qatari-teenager

    Qatari student’s killer gets four years
    http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/europe/qatari-students-killer-gets-four-years

  8. Abu Backar says:

    What about the exit permit, NOC and 2 year Ban period. How do you justify these ruthless laws Mr. Abdulla

    1. The Government is probably trying to protect itself in the only way it knows how. I guess it’s always a choice: if Qatar isn’t a good opportunity for you, perhaps another country will be better? All the Gulf countries, theoretically are very young. Labor laws take time to develop. I just hope Qatar is on that track.

  9. Abdulla says:

    That report proved what I said (Al-Jazeera) is Qatari Tv network owned by Qatar government and when they talk about some abuse by some companies that prove Qatar war on any offenders and this does not mean that Qatar government violates these workers rights !! or encourages the violation as you claimed when you said (chains of slavery).

    some of these workers also violates local laws with crimes and kids rape we can’t blame their governments with their violations ! can we !.

    Any worker who is exposed to the violation of his company Why not submit a complaint to the to Department National Action? Why not go in the worst conditions to his country embassy in Qatar or their countries also practice of slavery? Simply most of these workers when comes to Qatar does not know his rights and does not know that there are laws to be respected.

  10. raj says:

    i am sorry to say mr. abdulla u are totally wrong person and politicaly motivated.i have been in qatar.i know the situation.and mr. ahmed thanks for showing courage…

  11. Abdulla says:

    Mr Ahmed you just a liar person and the last sentence in your comment proved that you are just one of these people are opposed to the politic policy of Qatar.

    If laborers killing their self in Qatar how you came back alive!! what that basically take you to Qatar if your country gives you a decent life and work better than Qatar!!

    every one knew that million’s of people around the world want jobs in Qatar and Qatar government never claim that some companies using sponsor law or some local rules to control labores travel without a permit and recently Qatar canceled that law which mean the government there not like government you was supporting in Libya or sryia and they working and coprate with international organizations to develop and improve their country and who was looking to Qatar 15 years ago he can see how much they serious and how big different happen in these years and what good plan they have for their country and middle east to be more civilized and that what people like you fighting and oppose the policy of Qatar.

    Qatar now have Millions of workers working in their companies and investments around the world in USA, UK, Europe, Asia and South America. the Qataris successfully manage their business and their workers rights in every country.

    Qatar today better than many countries institutions collapsing and their banks go bankrupt and its citizens commit suicide because of losing their jobs and their money. While the foreign cant access European countries or USA, Australia and Immigrants not get asylum or jobs and they involuntarily deported en mass and who live there for studying or another reason he face the racism abhorrent.

    Qatar isn’t the best but that why it is like heaven for million’s of people who can’t get jobs or a decent life in his country or a fugitive from war, destruction and poverty.

  12. Thanks for your comment Ahmed. I’m very sorry to hear about the dreadful working conditions in Qatar. I will try to highlight this issue as much as possible during the lead up to the 2022 World Cup and put pressure on the nation to revise its human rights abuses. In the meantime, please do take care of yourself.

  13. Ahmed says:

    I have been working in Qatar for two years. The work environment in Qatar is more worse than modern slavery. Expat laborers kill themselves to escape from the chains of slavery.

    One is not allowed to leave the country at their own will no matter what and how big the emergency could be. Salaries are not paid on time. Many companies pay only half salary after 3 to months to keep the employee forcibly.

    One is not allowed to choose a better job for him or her self without the no objection certificate from their ex – employer. No work how small or big cannot be completed without the NOC of sponsor.

    World knows what is practiced yet people are not only watching but encouraging the human right abuse. FIFA sold itself to Qatar and seem not bothered about the plight of millions poor people and their families.

    London and the entire west is watching the double standards of Qatar, when they claim to be saviors of people in Libya, Syria and voice for their rights and turning a blind eye to the abuse done in their own home.

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