NLA tour of Canary Wharf

Yesterday, Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50, beginning the process that will officially take Britain out of the EU in March 2019. We marked the occasion by joining an insightful tour of the development of Canary Wharf led by New London Architecture (NLA). Our very knowledgeable tour guide kept us engaged and entertained as we learned about the area and its remarkable history.

We discovered that West India Docks, which date back to 1802, were extraordinarily dug by hand and this created the beginnings of Canary Wharf. Today, an estimated 115,000 people commute to the site daily and as a consequence, the area is constantly in flux with new developments and construction work on going. A new development, known as Wood Wharf, signed off post EU referendum last year, is currently under construction and is set to expand the site by a whopping 30%.

Swiss architecture practice, Herzog & de Meuron, recently famed for Tate Modern's new Switch House extension, has designed One Park Drive, a soon-to-be 58-storey residential tower that is part of the Wood Wharf development. The building will stand taller than Cesar Pelli’s One Canada Square; the iconic architectural tower of Canary Wharf. The site will also incorporate schools in order to encourage a more family-orientated demographic to the area. Completion of the first district of this development is due to follow the arrival of Crossrail in December 2018.

Aside from it’s different and often opposing architecture, Canary Wharf also has one of the UK’s largest collections of public art, which can be seen in and around the workspaces in the region. Among many sculptures and installations, Yvonne Domenge’s ‘Coquino Coral’ sculpture stands out among the surrounding buildings; its crimson colouration and organic nature contrasting with the planes of glass and grey steel from the neighbouring corporate edifices. Yvonne is one of four contemporary Mexican artists exhibiting her work in the area as part of the Mexico UK Year of the Arts, 2015.

Roy Strong, former Director of the V&A, commissioned many of the artworks at the site, as part of his role working with Canary Wharf’s developer Olympia & York in 1987. He often talked about wanting to encourage a diverse range of people to come and live in, as well as work in the region.

Among uncertain times, it seemed very much business as usual within the hustle and bustle and the ‘choreography of construction’ at Canary Wharf, as our tour guide wittingly coined it.