Construction of western Europe’s tallest building will begin in London today amid the gloomiest market for commercial building in decades, thanks to backing from a group of Qatari banks.

Designed by Renzo Piano, the Shard of Glass will tower 1,016ft above London Bridge station and stand nearly three times as high as St Paul’s Cathedral.

The developers hope to avoid comparisons with One Canada Square, which it will overtake as the UK’s tallest building when it is completed in 2012.

The 800ft centrepiece of Canary Wharf was finished in the depths of the last recession in 1991 but remained part-occupied for most of the 1990s, leading to the collapse of its Canadian developer Olympia & York.

Financial Times