It has been turning heads all over London. Walking down streets, in parks, even stuck in traffic jams on the M25, people have been watching the steady ascent of a towering landmark on the capital's skyline.
Its 310m (1,016ft) tapering steel structure was topped out in March, with the last few of its 11,000 shimmering window panes fitted in recent weeks.
On Thursday, the Shard's inauguration will be followed by a dazzling light show, during which the skyscraper will fire laser beams at other iconic buildings, marking its new dominance of the London skyline.
Its restaurants and viewing galleries, where - weather permitting - people will be able to see as far as Southend, are not expected to open until February 2013. But Italian architect Renzo Piano is already keen to convince locals the London Bridge skyscraper is not just another monolithic office tower.
"For me, the most important thing is, is it going to be loved in London or not? "Skyscrapers have to give back to the city more than they get from the city." He hopes the Shard will be a building Londoners can take possession of, rather than just gazing in awe at its exterior. The EU's tallest building will have office space at its base, but higher there will be apartments, restaurants and a hotel - though it is perhaps unlikely the average Londoner will be able to afford to sleep there.A viewing gallery at the summit, however, should prove more accessible and is expected to draw more than a million people each year. Not everyone is full of praise. Local campaigners Bermondsey Village Action Group co-ordinator Russell Gray said: "It's just a great big pyramid of glass and steel. "There's nothing intrinsically endearing about it." But the veteran property developer behind the skyscraper, Irvine Sellar, believes what he calls "the first vertical town in Europe" will have a positive impact. He said: "People commuting in London Bridge are now seeing a pleasurable experience opposed to the kingdom of darkness that Renzo described was there before." Facing local critics is just one of many obstacles Mr Sellar has overcome to get the Shard built. He has also battled through gales, a world financial crisis and a public inquiry. When he bought Southwark Towers, a rather uninspiring 25-storey office block, in 1998, Mr Sellar says he "had no intention of developing the site".