England UK the urban design of 98598 but continuing

buildings) and landscaped open space. It is served by a light-rail system and, belatedly in 2000, by an underground railway station on the Jubilee Line (see Chapter 10). The site extends over 86 acres (34.4 hectares) of which about 20% is landscaped open space. To get to this state has been a harrowing experience.

In the 1980s, the British government under Thatcher took over control of the Docklands area from the five local borough governments responsible for it and established the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC). The LDDC's task, as stated in 1981 by the then Environment Secretary, Michael Heseltine, was to 'bring these barren areas back into more valuable use'. The Corporation encouraged a market-led approach to design but it also created an enterprise zone that offered tax incentives for firms to locate at Canary Wharf. The Docklands' statutory regulations were

Figure 8.16 A model of the SOM proposal for Canary Wharf.

also suspended. Much was left up in the air. There were, for instance, no specific regulations about building developers' contributions to the cost of the infrastructure or landscape architecture. Decisions were made on an ad hoc basis.

In 1985 an American entrepreneur, G. Ware Travelstead, proposed a 35-hectare commercial development designed by Hanna-Olin for the Canary Wharf site but in the same year Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) was commissioned to produce a master plan and design guidelines for the area (see Figure 8.16). The present layout retains the essential feature of that plan. The design has a City Beautiful/Beaux-Arts axis terminated by a landmark building (see Figure 8.17). The area was divided into 26 building sites and formal landscaped gardens. The design guidelines - prepared by SOM and the LDDC - specified height limits for the buildings in order for the central towers to be landmarks, and also the requirements for the materials to be used in order to establish a sense of unity. Development proposals that conformed to the guidelines did not require LDDC approval. Anything that deviated from them did. The guidelines turned out to be quite prescriptive giving architects little design leeway.

In 1987, the developers Olympia and York, earlier a key investor in Battery Park City (see later in this chapter), inherited the master plan. The company was part of the Reichmann family real estate empire in Canada. Otto Blau, a key member of the company advised against investing in Canary Wharf because of its location. Paul Reichmann, who had developed a close relationship with Margaret Thatcher, was persuaded to go ahead by her personal promises that an underground rail connection to the site would be built in order to make the site commercially viable. By the time she left office in 1990 no progress had been made on the line.

The development of Canary Wharf, like that of La Défense, has not been smooth sailing. £1.3 billion was quickly invested between 1981 and 1986. After those years of speculation and development, bankruptcies in the 1990s saw the financial collapse of the development. The commercial rental market was severely depressed. No leading tenants had signed leases. This lack of demand for commercial office space had

Olympia And York Detailed Plan Canary
I.Canary Wharf Light Rail station; 2. Jubilee Line station; 3. Westberry Circus; 4. One Canada Place Figure 8.17 The Canary Wharf plan.

a major impact on Canary Wharf because it was not a mixed-use development. Olympia and York went into receivership in 1992. It owed substantial sums to 91 lending banks that had invested money largely on Paul Reichmann's enthusiasm for the project. Three years later Canary Wharf was sold to an international consortium of which Paul Reichmann is a leading member for £700 million. In 1995, Prince al-Walid bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia helped bring Canary Wharf out of bankruptcy. The development was not helped by the Irish Republican Army's car bomb attack of February 1996 causing £50 million worth of damages and killing two people. In 1999, the consortium became a public company with shares selling at £3.30.

With the rise in demand for office space in the mid-1990s much has now been built.

Building-use programme changes have enriched the development mix. It was expanded to include more restaurants, clubs, hotels, and leisure and entertainment facilities. The only residential development consists of luxury apartments at Wood Wharf but more apartments are in the offing nearby. The LDDC having completed the regeneration programme closed in 1998. A Canary Wharf Group now promotes the development. In 2002, Canary Wharf was 99.5% leased. It has a working-day population of 55,000 people and new buildings are being erected in adjacent areas. Canary Wharf is, however, still in financial trouble.

In late 2003, the Canary Wharf Group had £3 billion debts. Efforts were being made to sell-off the company. The downturn in the London office market resulted in the

Axes Urban Design
Figure 8.18 Three views of Canary Wharf. (a) A view from the ferry wharf, 1993, (b) a view on axis towards One Canada Place, 2004 and (c) a view from the south, 2004.

company's shares trading at £2.43 in November 2003 having dropped to as low as £2.20 earlier in the year. The financial difficulties were being compounded by tenants whose leases were coming up for renewal seeking lower rates than they were currently paying to remain at Canary Wharf (Timmons, 2003). The physical environment is, however, there for everybody to see.

The architecture of the buildings has been described as 'post-modern classical'. Marble, limestone, brick, steel and glass are the primary building materials. A unity of design is achieved through the round corner towers at the entrances to the squares, the pedi-mented façades facing the Thames, the window grid applied and the attic story setbacks. The buildings were designed by major global architectural practices such as Kohn Pederson Fox, I. M. Pei, Troughton McAslan and César Pelli. Pelli (Architect of the World Financial Center at Battery Park City) was hired by Olympia and York to design the key building, One Canada Square, which is one of three landmark towers that can be seen from a distance. It is a relatively plain 800-foot (245-metre) Modernist building of stainless steel and glass with a reconstituted limestone base. It is an architecturally subdued building. It is distinguished primarily by its location at the end of the axis and by its height (see Figure 8.17).

The design controls have resulted in Canary Wharf being considerably less flamboyant than much commercial architecture of the 1990s. Contemporary critics saw this character as negative but it seems to be aging well in our contemporary critics' eyes. An important urban design difference between Canary Wharf and La Défense is that the buildings have street addresses so they can be reached from the street. At La Défense the pedestrian zones are largely undifferentiated. Perhaps this detail is something that SOM brought with them from their American experience (Figure 8.18).

The project has been both damned and praised. The lack of concern for the infrastructure necessary for the working population, particularly in public transportation, was severely criticized by all and sundry. The problem has now been largely addressed. A direct link to Heathrow airport and Liverpool Street station is still at the proposal level and Canary Wharf firms are lobbying hard for it. There is also a proposal for a monorail connection to the heart of the City. Canary Wharf has been criticized for its bland, cheap, hermetically sealed architecture and finishes. It has been unfairly dismissed as the 'architectural expression of Thatcherism'. There are, however, problems. The sick building syndrome has, apparently, been common. The office monoculture that isolated the development from the social difficulties of people in its surroundings has also been the subject of negative commentary. Outsiders regard Canary Wharf as a private estate.

On the positive side the master plan has been praised for the quality of its landscaping: its circuses, squares and tree-lined streets. The individuality of the buildings designed by different architects (i.e. its all-of-a-piece urban design quality) has also been regarded as an achievement of merit. The overall success of the endeavour remains to be seen. It has, nevertheless, already achieved its primary goal of relieving, but not eliminating, pressure on the City.

Major references

Edwards, Brian (1992). London Docklands: Urban Design in an Era of Deregulation. Oxford: Butterworth Architecture.

Hoyle, Brian S., David Pinder and M. Sohail Husain (1994). Revitalising the Waterfront: International Dimensions of Dockland Redevelopment. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons.

Meyer, Han (1999). City and Port: Urban Planning as a Cultural Venture in London, Rotterdam and New York. Utrecht: International Books.

Ogden, Philip, ed. (1992). Update: London Docklands, the Challenge of Development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Powell, Ken (2000). City Transformed: Urban Architecture at the Beginning of the 21st Century. London: Laurence & King.

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment