The Landscape Guide

Canary Wharf Landscape: a photographic commentary

Please look first at the official Canary Wharf Website. It is as glossy as one would expect from a property company and has a neat interactive model linking the viewer to impressive photographs. In addition to this page, the website has pages on Jubilee Park , on the Canary Wharf design and a general comment on landscape planning for the Isle of Dogs.

London Landscape Plans: 1829, 1900, 1929, 1943, 1951, 1969, 1976, 1988, 1990, 1992, 2000, 2004, London landscape architecture,

The Giant Saucer is a spectacle; the slab of grass has scarcely any sunlight at noon on a summer's day. It is used by office workers only on those 5 days in an average year when it is too hot to be in London's summer sun. The developers explain: 'A striking feature of the park is the Big Blue, a huge asymmetric glass fibre disc which rests on a glass cylinder making it appear as if it were floating above the ground.' It was designed by Ron Arad and has to be commended as an example of site-related sculpture.
The south-facing dockside terrace is understandably popular. It has a very favourable microclimate and good views of the surrounding buildings. The only problems are (1) the stretch of bitmac between the restaurant area and the dock basin (2) the lack of any interesting activity on the water surface. Swans would be nice, but they need something to eat and somewhere to nest. Boats for hire would also be pleasant.
The north facing dockside terrace is cold and unpopular. It was photographed (right) 5 minutes after the above picture. Unless it is raining, people don't really need umbrellas when sitting in the shade. When the wind is north easterly, this space is amazingly cool - no need to put your champagne in an ice bucket.
Another south facing dockside terrace with no people generators: no shops, no cafes, no seats, no flowers, no sense. We do not know who did the design but do not doubt that it was done by architects with no more knowledge of landscape design than rocket science.

The Cabot Square Fountain is popular on a few hot days but bleak and deserted for the rest of the year


West Ferry Circus and the avenue leading to Ceasar Pelli's pyramid-capped tower were planned by Laurie Olin . The circus is pleasant but makes no use of the near-riverside location and is not as popular one might expect. Having a road around the perimeter of the public garden does not help it to attract visitors.
The riverside desert between West Ferry Circus and the River Thames has not been designed. Why didn't they ask Laurie Olin for a design? It looks like the type of place UK planners used to make in the 1960's new towns. But the New Towns had more planting (because the 1946 New Town's Act required special attention to their 'landscape treatment'). London Docklands never had a serious landscape strategy. It could have cost little and done much.
The best view of Canary Wharf is from Greenwich Park - and it looks good because the tall buildings form a meaningful group, just a little reminiscent of a fairy-tale castle in a Theme Park. A few more pointed buildings would not go amiss.
The urban composition of dwellings, offices, trees and water enriches the urban scene. The boat berths never have any boats because the residents live only for work. Its nice to have a visual argument to support the other planning arguments for 'mixed use development.