Human Or Claw? The Shard Gets A Double Sculpture By Jaume Plensa

By M@
Human Or Claw? The Shard Gets A Double Sculpture By Jaume Plensa
A sculpture of a human form made from ribbons of silvery metal, hugs its own knees. Bare winter trees and a generic glass building are in the background

A human form, spun out of the letters and characters of seven different languages, emerges from the plaza in front of the Shard.

This is WE, a new work of art from renowned sculptor Jaume Plensa.

It's actually a sculpture in two parts. The largest section, a full bodily form, stands midway between the Shard and the News Building. The second, just a head and torso, hangs menacingly over the public escalators.

A sculpture of a human head and torso hangs from a beam. It looks like a giant claw. A full human body sculpture and a glass office building are in the background
"The Claw! The Claw!"

Is it just us, or does the dangling bit look like... well...

So what does it all mean? According to the official blurb, WE is suggestive of mirrors and reflection (a common theme for Plensa's work), but also — in its mixed alphabets — diversity. According to Plensa: "The dialogue between The Shard and London Bridge station is a wonderful metaphor about the fusion of avant-garde and tradition. The perfect place to celebrate the diversity of the world – the true soul of London."

As well as a metaphor for diversity, the contorted typography can also be seen as a more literal nod to publishing and the written word — apt for the space next to the News Building, which contains The Times, The Sun and other media outlets.

A side view of the metallic figure. A tube roundel can be seen in the background

Most big developments these days come with a dollop of public art. The Shard had been strangely lacking in this respect, as though its lofty crown were sculpture enough. The installation of WE fits the bill rather neatly, as a centrepiece for the zone that's now going by the name of The Shard Quarter.

A head and torso made from silvery metal hangs from a crossbeam

Jaume is well known across the world for his large sculptures of heads and bodies, but this is his first permanent, public work in London.  There's plenty to admire in the sculpture, and kids in particular will enjoy playing inside the cavity of the larger figure, and tracing the typographic forms with their fingers.   

A part of London associated with Dickens, Chaucer and Keats has a new person of letters.

Last Updated 17 July 2023