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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Shard napkin sketch released

Shard napkin sketch released

Italian architect Renzo Piano’s startling original sketch for London’s most instantly recognizable new building has been shown to the public, just before the viewing platforms at the top of the 310-metre Shard open to the public.

The sketch throws a fascinating light on how inspiration can come to an architect.

“This thing came very quickly,” architect Piano recalled of his first thoughts about the building that would become the Shard, the tallest building in the European Union.

Piano apparently sketched his idea on a napkin in a restaurant while meeting property developer Irvine Sellar in March 2000.

According to Piano’s architectural firm, RPBW, Sellar keeps the famous napkin in his offices.

In a recent interview, Sellar recalled the moment when inspiration struck.

“He saw the beauty of the river and the railways and the way their energy blended and began to sketch in green felt pen on a napkin what he saw as a giant sail or an iceberg.”

Piano, for his part, has sometimes sounded squeamish about the legend that has built up around his off-the-cuff sketch. “I don’t want to create a mythology,” he has said.

In 2006, Piano was selected by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. 


To contact the reporter on this story: Rupert Winchester at



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