London’s Canary Wharf is being transformed, but will residents approve?

5 Posted by - June 27, 2014 - Architecture, Design, Europe
Canary Wharf

Herzog & de Meuron’s Residential Tower. Image Courtesy of Canary Wharf Group

Canary Wharf is one of London’s leading financial districts, and its most recently announced project is equally ambitious. The proposed district, entitled Wood Wharf, consists of 3,100 residential units along with 100 stores and cafes, entry-level youth schools, and other public facilities. The current centerpiece of the plan is a hyper-modern 56-story residential skyscraper that may divide local opinion. Aside from the contrasting skyscraper, Wood Wharf allows Canary Wharf to further evolve as London’s prime financial sector.


Local urban planners Allies and Morrison submitted the plan for Wood Wharf with the goal of facilitating Canary Wharf’s dominance as one of London’s top financial districts. The plan consists of 2.57 million sq. ft. of commercial offices, and 340,000 sq. ft allocated for local shops and restaurants. Along with this, there are 8.9 acres devoted for public squares and walkways.

While the tower is certainly the most striking aspect of the Wood Wharf development, the majority of the project consists of street-level amenities. The most notable part of the development is the 8.9 acres of interconnected public space. The goal is to allow effortless transportation by bicycle or newly devised bus routes, and the public squares along the way will promote connection within the community. As Sir George Iacobescu, Chairman and Chief Executive of Canary Wharf Group, stated:

“The revised master-plan will create a strong and complementary mix of uses, and provide new homes, offices and retail spaces set within a network of streets and public  spaces, designed to support the social life of new residents, employees and the surrounding community. It is a reflection of the demand we are seeing in the market, and is an opportunity for us to further expand the appeal of Canary Wharf by creating a new and exciting mixed use neighborhood at Wood Wharf which will offer greater diversity and amenity and a richer urban fabric for the fast emerging City Centre of Canary Wharf.”

Canary Wharf Boardwalk

Canary Wharf Boardwalk. Image Courtesy of Canary Wharf Group


The currently released designs are impressive, but they are hardly exciting. The proposed office spaces are an odd mix of stout brutalism and inviting glass walls. One of the office buildings is a light maroon while the other is simply grey. The main residential tower, however, is a staggering spherical-cubicle that is expected to have equal numbers of supporters and detractors in the community. The tower was designed by Swiss team Herzog & de Meuron and London’s own Stanton Williams. The tower features units with a patio/window that is segmented from the next to provide each resident with their own unique and unhindered view of the wharf outside.  However, the design fails to be exciting, and it may make residents feel like true worker bees.

Aesthetically, the tower is slightly at odds with the surrounding area. While the off-white color works well with the water and surrounding buildings, the cubist design still strikes as out of place. It’s simply far too busy for the otherwise conforming area. However, the building serves its purpose as a fully-modern residential space, and the majority of the development will help to advance Canary Wharf.

The first buildings are expected to be completed by 2017. Until then, it’s anyone’s guess as to how locals will react to the new skyscraper. As for the other buildings, public spaces, and financial incentives that this project brings, it’s certain that the locals will gladly welcome them into the neighborhood.

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