Daniel Libeskind's dramatic design is a constellation of three interlocking shards - Earth, forming the generous and flexible museum space; Air, with its projected images, observatory and education spaces serving as a dramatic entry into the museum; and water, with its restaurant, cafe, deck and performance space forming a viewing platform for the Manchester Ship Canal.
Aluminium was used as the principal facade material in three different ways. The precision box-section extrusions provided the strength and elegance to ensure the dramatic effect of the Air Shard tower. The tapered standing-seam system allowed the expression of lines of latitude and longitude on the Earth Shard roof. And the flat 3mm plates created powerful fascias 4m deep, cutting sheer planes through the spherical Earth Shard roof.
Overall, aluminium was chosen for its visual appearance, high strength efficiency, cost-effectiveness and recyclability.