What is it like dealing with hundreds of marriage proposals a year? Only a select number of movie stars and the staff of London’s highest tourist attraction can arguably answer this question.
Kristian Sadler is Head of Operations of The View from The Shard and has witnessed more than his fair share of bended knees during his five years at the post.
“It’s a romantic place. We’ve had about 600 proposals since I started,” he says.
Luckily, only one person has ever said ‘no’. For happier results, Sadler’s team is on hand to offer champagne or take photos. It is such a popular destination for hopeful suitors; they can even book a private area to pop the question.
It is 8:30am, approximately 310 metres in the London sky and Sadler is talking romance while he oversees the preparation of the capital’s highest observation deck before the crowds arrive. A trolley full of ice arrives in the lift, coffee machines hiss and the windows are meticulously polished. Dressed in a suit – finished off with The Shard shaped pin – he stoops to pick up a stray bit of litter. It is his job to ensure that the 4,000-plus daily visitors to the attraction have an absolutely perfect experience.
It begins 68 floors below at street level, where red-coated door attendants guide guests to the lifts. These zoom at six metres per second to the indoor observation deck, twice the height of any other in the city. Three storeys up, the SkyDeck is open to the elements allowing guests to immerse themselves in London’s famously unpredictable weather.
Today it is clear, revealing a 360-degree view of the city below: boats plough along The Thames, trains snake to the coast and red buses dot the roads. To the east, the early morning sun cuts through the clouds. A weather system draws in from the north. It’s an incredible view.
“It’s an ever changing palette. Night time reveals the scale of the city, the lights come on and the buildings melt away.”
To prove this he scrolls to a picture on his phone of the previous evening. That he is still snapping away some five years into the job is testament to the attraction’s breath-taking power. The floor-to-ceiling aspect reveals the hidden guts of the city: the wheelie bins, the new buildings shooting up behind historic facades, protests, carnivals... it is a fascinating show.
Sadler’s favourite thing to look at is the meandering curves of the River Thames that dissect London.
“The Thames was the lifeblood of the city; the mast like design of The Shard is a nod to that,” he says.
History is very important at The View from The Shard. The attraction’s guides undergo rigorous training on the city’s past, from the Romans to its many modern buildings. Knowing one’s ‘Gherkin’, from one’s ‘Razor’ is a key part of the job.
“That’s the top of Shooters Hill,” he says, quick as a flash, when challenged to name a distant patch of green. He even manages some facts about some of Southwark’s more obscure high rises (former council blocks, recently snapped up by investors).
Failing to answer a guest’s question is not an option in an era when experience is everything. Younger generations, in particular, are foregoing material gifts in favour of spending quality (not to mention Instagrammable) time with their friends and family.
This is the reason why the observation deck has two bars that wouldn’t look out of place in a high-end hotel, as well as activities such as a 3D simulator ride. A vibrant events programme includes silent discos, children’s breakfast sessions, and regular party nights in partnership with Moët and Chandon. All of this makes The View from The Shard an attraction for modern times.
There is more coming, according to Sadler. Part of his role is to plot the future of the attraction to ensure that it compares with other landmarks such as New York’s Top of The Rock, or the Eiffel Tower in Paris. He remains tight-lipped on the details, but expect changes as amazing as the view.
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