Shard Rain Cam

Willem, from The Secret Batcave in South London, is piqued with irritation by the Shard, which interrupts his view from pretty much everywhere he looks. The Shard, for non-Brits and for those Brits who have been living…in a cave, is 95 storeys of incongruous Qatari-owned phallomorphism designed by the guy behind the Pompidou Centre in Paris. It’s the tallest building in the EU, at 309.6 metres. It’s out of place, madly disproportionate, looms over the city like a great big monument to stupid domineering excess, dwarfs the Wren churches of the City of London and even the converted power station that houses the Tate gallery, and was described by John Prescott as being of “the highest architectural quality,” which really tells you all you need to know.

I do not like the Shard. I’m not a Luddite; I say this as a person with a great fondness for the Erotic Gherkin and the Spiral extension of the V&A that never got built. London’s a living city, and new buildings are part of its evolution. But good architecture has something to say; all the Shard has to say is “Whee! I’m bigger than you!”, while trying to stab you in the eye. (And trying to get you to fork over £25 to go to the top to have a look out of the window. It’s a Tourist Attraction, you see.)

At least I don’t live in London, though. Unlike poor Willem, who has to look at the damn thing every day.

But Willem has realised that his rage can be assuaged with a little dose of sour grapes, and that information is beautiful even if the Shard isn’t, so he’s hooked a Raspberry Pi up to a camera pointing at the thing to remind himself that life at the top of the Shard isn’t always a light-bathed soak in other people’s views.

I live in South London, which means that the everywhere I look the Shard stands over me. Now its reported that a flat in this tower of Babel will cost north of £30 million quid. Lets hope the lifts work.


This wonderful splash of cash got me thinking, basically you buy this flat for the view. Now living in Britain as I do, I know that the weather is not really designed for long distant views. This got me thinking; if its grey and raining for a day, how much does it cost? Quite a lot as it turns out:


£30,000000 / (365 *10) = £8230 a day.


That’s right, rain costs eight grand a day.


Lets just go over those figures a little. We assume a flat costs £30 million, The Telegraph claims its up to £50M, however the estate agents seem to differ and peg it at around £20M. I’ll do what economists do and guess a number and swear its based on an accurate model. Likewise I assume that the average nouveau riche nonce will keep the flat for about ten years (I assume they’ll either die in a car crash, coke overdose, or have to sell it to fund an expensive vice of some sort).


If we plug those numbers into my proprietary financial model algorithm, we see that £30M spread over ten years equates to £8230 a day (with rounding). I also assume that you buy this type of flat for the view. Dividing it further, each rainy hour costs around £342. It’s even higher if you don’t count the night time.


So why do I need a webcam? Well I want to find out how often the shard is obscured by rain, and therefore how much money has been eaten by the British weather and then laugh at the ****s who splashed so much cash. 

You can read more about why Willem put this cam together and how he did it on his website. He’s also made his timelapse software available, and explains how he quantifies “cloudiness” using the cam’s output.

The data the Pi receives is sent to a simple little website called What Can I See From the Shard. Here’s a screengrab:

Thank you, Willem. Your bitterness serves us all.



JamesH avatar

Now that is what the Raspi is for….but if the shard is the tallest in the UK, where is the camera pointing at it (and looking slightly down)…attached to some jetpack wielding banker?

liz avatar

It’s probably on another one of Dave Akerman’s balloons. :)

Chris avatar

The picture at the top is quite clearly from a helicopter or other flying device.

The webcam one is in the screengrab and looks awful :)

Dave Akerman avatar

For once, not guilty :-)

Tom avatar


liz avatar

Ten points to that man!

Neil avatar

Ten points! Yahoo Answers beckons. Not even as spendable as nectar.

Richard avatar

Methinks the lady doth protest too much…

Mike avatar

My mates been working on it, and reluctantly I have to say the view from the top at dawn on a nice day is rather impressive. (Sorry – I’m normally so bitter, I just don’t know what came over me there.)

liz avatar

The view from the bottom‘s crap, though, isn’t it?

Chris avatar

That and the whole thing looks awful.

ColinD avatar


Person (preferably an owner of a Raspberry Pi) needed to purchase penthouse flat in the Shard and erect a webcam staring down at us all. Must not be afraid of heights.

Was considering putting this on Kickstarter but would need to raise £30000035 ;0)

yakko TDI avatar

I got my own Pi and some change in-between the couch cushions. All I need is a camera module and £29000132.

Tarun Pemmaraju avatar

You have £999868 lurking between your couch cushions?

Ravenous avatar

Now why do you think someone who lives in a thing like that would actually volunteer for something?

ColinD avatar

Tax deductible?

don isenstadt avatar

the gherkin … now we know.. my wife and I have been watching all the mi-5 shows on netflix and they keep showing that building .. and now we know what it is thanks! :-) .. ps.. we love the series ..

Martin Bonner avatar

But, but, but … the Shard is lovely!

Why don’t you love it? (It’s much prettier than the Gherkin)

toby1kenobi avatar

The model doesn’t work, does it, it assumes the £30m is gone at the end of 10 years (when in actual fact the buyer problably makes a profit)?!

Chris avatar

I agree with Toby. More accurate (without spending too much time thinking about this) would be to assume the property is purchased for £30m and sold for £30m 10 years later. Calculate the lost savings by having that money tied up in the property for the 10 years (this rich person doesn’t need a mortgage!)…. So assume, what, 2% APR for a nice savings account? Thats a loss of £6.57m in interest over the 10 years…. Thats around £1800 a day for the rainy view!

JamesH avatar

£30M is going to pull in more than 2% APR I would hope!

toby1kenobi avatar

..and property in London is currently increasing in value by about 5%/year

meltwater avatar

It would probably be a safe bet that it would have lost at least 2/3rds of it’s value due to the economic climate, which probably has about just as much chance of clear skies as the tower does for the next 3 years.

ukscone avatar

OK i don’t have to look at it everyday but I kind of like the Shard & could do without the Gerkin. I’d swap you the “Freedom Tower” for the Shard any time you want.

TimR avatar

I quite like the gherkin. The Shard, OTOH, is just big and dull. It’s not even interesting enough to be ugly. It just lurks.
It makes me quite cross, actually, because it’s such a wasted opportunity.


liz avatar

A lot of it’s a scale thing, Scone; but I know you’ve not been back to the UK for about 17 years, so we’ll let you off!

W. H. Heydt avatar

What I want to know is…how does the visibility graph plot values that show LESS THAN no visibility at all?

meltwater avatar

That is when it is watching you…

alex avatar

Now THAT was funny Tim. :)

ColinD avatar

+1 hehe

Dorothy Heydt avatar

I don’t know whether this will make you feel better or worse, but we’ve had the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco since [quick google] 1972. We’ve sort of gotten used to it.

Then there’s the Bank of America building, which is not particularly memorable, just big, except for the sculpture in front of it, sort of ovoid and made of some black stone. It’s known as The Banker’s Heart.

There’s the Vaillancourt Fountain, which looks sort of like that V&A extension that didn’t get built, except it spouts water. It doesn’t have a name, at least not a printable one, for when it was first unveiled someone commented that “it looks like the output of a dog with square intestines.”

The Transamerica Pyramid was soon retronymed as the dog’s doghouse, and One Embarcadero Center has in its central airspace a tall pointy metallic sculpture, immediately identified as the whistle for calling the dog with square intestines.

In other words, San Franciscans are almost as clever as Londoners. :)

Caldimerda avatar

Ah, but in San Francisco you had the foresight to make the city hilly. So you can – for example – be strolling down from the very old tech Coit Tower and be looking down on a lot of the TransAmerica building.
Of all the old European capitals, London is by far the biggest pig’s ear. And no, I do not believe we can blame the Luftwaffe.

HaggisHunter avatar

Two questions spring immediately to my mind (as a demiex-pat, ie living in Scotland and paying too-little attention to the Deep South):

1. If it’s £25 to take the lift to the top, how much to use the stairs? (Ok make that 3 questions – there are stairs, right?

3. Given that the Shard is in central London, is the view on a clear day any better than no view at all?

Thanks, now I’m off to find a flame-retardant kilt.

meltwater avatar

I have to admit, I’d never of it until now.

Just thought I would share, it is only 3616 raspberry pi’s high.

Could always use a 15 1/2 meter wide wall of RPi’s to mask your view of it.

Peter Hickman avatar

To be a little out of the ordinary here I have to say that the Shard is not tall enough!

It should pierce the clouds. Cast a shadow over Lodon and use it like a sundial. Some have likened it to Barad Dur in Mordor but I would liken it to something that the Benefactors of Half Life would build.

It really is quite dull.

meltwater avatar

Just wait until they switch it on and the laser fires up.
(too many years of command and conquer)

mark skinner avatar

I agree the shard is an ugly eyesore in the city, but your maths assumes that you spend 30 million on the flat and after 10 years you just give it away. Of course you’ll probably be able to sell it to some other rich idiot for twice as much by then, so perhaps they’ve got the last laugh. Of course when flying cars are common place in 2015 [1] then the view will be crap anyway

[1] Back to the Future: Part II

Chris avatar

Ummm…..didn’t Parisians (used to )really hate the Eiffel

clive avatar

No, they loved it and flocked up it in their millions during the 1889 Expo. (Some folk, notably artists, whinged about it during the proposal and planning stage.)

Paul avatar

Wow, until today I’d never heard of anyone disliking the Shard. It’s one of my favourite buildings in London, an instant favourite from the moment I first saw it in the flesh so to speak. Still I suppose there was always going to be someone who doesn’t like it.

andy avatar

Wasn’t this news about a month ago? I know hackaday covered it sometime ago.

Robert_M avatar

This article is actually a reprint of when the Raspberry Pi first went into production back in 1985, but we’re all going along with pretending it’s recent news so Mooncake doesn’t shred the arms of the sofa or leave feather-encrusted hairballs on the dining table.

Thomas avatar

Very refreshing entry :-).

Willem avatar

I am deeply honored to be featured here, thanks Liz!

In real life I’m not really bitter as all that, I think it was actually a dare from work. (we have lots of computer vision people at work)

One quick note, yes the maths is wonky, it does assume that the flat isn’t worth anything after ten years. I like to call it the “ol’ Daily Mail” statistical method.

I have a show to organize in april, however, when I get the chance I will try and release the data so people can do with it what they want. (might even be able to improve the detecting method)


Andrew Scheller avatar

Why the two big peaks in the visibility graph? Data-glitches?

Martin avatar

Maybe a bird in front of the camera ;)

liz avatar

Thank you! As you can probably tell, we kind of loved it. :)

Ian Drury avatar

Living in rural Ireland with an elevated view of a sea lough has it’s rewards then, even if there are no jobs and the government has it’s hands deep in everyone’s wallet….
I saw some nice skyscrapers in Manhattan once…

Paul_I avatar

If Willem get’s his act together that website will soon get him enough ad revenue to buy several replacement RPis.

Martin avatar

I’d love to see the final code you use for the visibility data calculation.

Alden avatar

Willem, this is a pure genius.

iainmacl avatar

How about using some decent image processing so that a webcam pointing out of his window actually removes the shard from the scene? That would ease the stress somewhat.

Casey avatar

You calculations assume the flat is worth 0 after 10 years … I don’t think that is reasonable.

Andrew Scheller avatar

We now know that the Shard is the home of the evil walking WiFi base-stations too ;-)

Comments are closed