A group of men called the "London Consolidation Crew," described as "urban explorers" trespassed into London's tallest building The Shard, and captured dramatic footage of themselves perched hundreds of feet above the ground.
The men climbed the over 1000 feet tall pyramid-shaped glass building and revealed on Sunday, breathtaking pictures taken from the top of the skyscraper. The Telegraph reports that the group, comprising mostly of middle class professionals, claimed they bypassed the building's high level security. Three members of the group climbed nearly 80 storeys to record astonishing images of the view.
According to The Telegraph, they gained access to Britain's highest crane on top of the building to "admire" stunning view for more than 30 minutes.
The claim that they bypassed the supposedly "high level security" of the building has raised questions, at the eve of London Olympics when city authorities are alert to terrorist threat.
According to group member Dr. Bradley Garrett, 31, from Clapham, south London, he gained access to the site with two other members on at least three separate occasions last year. Daily Mail reports he said his group had first climbed the building to watch New Year’s Eve fireworks over London in December 2010.
Garrett said they are posting pictures now because some of their members were subject of court action from the authorities. Garrett insisted their activity, dubbed "Place Hacking," is harmless fun. Garret, a freelance photographer and documentary film-maker, and formerly of Los Angeles, said: “We do it because we love London and we want to see it from a different perspective. Urban explorers are interested in going into places that we are not supposed to be in and then document them and post images to the Internet so other people can see these ‘out of bounds’ areas. We don’t break anything or damage property, so we don’t see what the problem is. We are just going in to have a look, that's all. While it is embarrassing for the organization in question, like the Shard, we are careful when we are in there.This is what we do on our weekends and in our spare time.”
Daily Mail reports Garrett completed a PhD in February at Royal Holloway, University of London. His PhD thesis was titled "Place Hacking: Tales of Urban Exploration."
According to The Telegraph, the group claims to have gained access to more than 300 other sites in seven countries over the past three years. Their sites of interest include London Underground, sewer tunnels, St Paul's Cathedral, Newport Transporter Bridge in South Wales and BT's main telephone exchange tower.
The Telegraph reports that on Sunday, Seller Property Group, The Shard's developer, and Mace, the main contractor, denied Garrett's claim that he and two companions breached security and climbed to the top of the building in recent weeks. They said, in a statement: "We believe this is an incident which took place around December 2010 when we were undertaking both ground and structure works. The breach was discovered very soon afterwards and security immediately tightened.Today security on the site is tight with 14 night-time security guards on duty continuously who cover all areas as well as 25 CCTV cameras in operation together with a ground floor level laser alarm system."
Garret, according to Daily Mail, however, describes how he and his companions accessed the building: "The security has got better over time but you just can’t secure a site that big. There was usually only one security guard, so we waited until he had finished his round and gone into his hut, then swung off London Bridge on to a walkway. We pushed open the door to the central staircase and ran up the stairs two at a time. At the 31st floor the three men were sweating heavily, at the 50th they had to stop for breath, at the 70th the concrete staircase turned into metal ladders and then wooden ladders took them to the current top, the 76th floor. Right at the top is a crane with a red light at its zenith to warn aircraft."
Garrett said: "When you’re hanging on to the crane and it’s shaking in the wind you do feel nervous. But to go up and touch the red light right at the ultimate pinnacle is incredibly exhilarating. If I felt it was unsafe I wouldn’t do it. We don’t break in – we sneak in. We never cause criminal damage and we leave everything exactly how we find it. We’re doing it as we love the building. Ninety per cent of the time no-one even knows we have been in and out of the place."
Huffington Post gives additional details of Garrett's account of how they breached security at The Shard: "We waited for the guard to finish his current round and go into his hut. It took a few minutes of lingering before the walkway was clear of people - we grabbed onto the scaffolding pipes and swung off the bridge. Hanging on the freezing pipes, we pulled ourselves on top of the walkway and laid down out of view, waiting for a reaction in case anyone had seen or heard us. It didn't seem so. Staying low, we then descended the other side of the scaffolding, right behind the security hut where we could see the guard watching TV, not the cameras. Quickly, we scampered across the yard and found the central stair case, again pausing to see if there was any reaction from the yard, phones ringing or doors opening. It was silent."
The Telegraph reports The Shard was designed by the Renzo Piano, an Italian architect known for creating Paris’ Pompidou Centre in collaboration with Britain’s Richard Rogers. The Shard will be the tallest building in the EU when completed in June, ahead of the Olympic Games.
The Telegraph reports the London Consolidation Crew has about 24 members aged between 18 and 32.