Canary Wharf: A Closer Look at Our History with this Transit-Oriented Community
Canary Wharf is Britain’s largest office project, incorporating 13 million square feet of development on an 80-acre site, three miles east of London’s central business district.
What was once a trading port is now a thriving community whose identity includes residential, cultural, and commercial spaces, all connected and accessible to the rest of London in several ways. In addition to its walkways and bike paths, Canary Wharf also benefits from several transit connections, including London Underground’s Jubilee Line, two Docklands Light Railway stops, and the Thames Clipper River Bus.
Part of the area’s evolution to what it is now was the development of some of London’s tallest buildings, attracting key industries including everything from law firms to banks and media companies. In 1992, eleven buildings comprising 4.4 million square feet were completed, including Britain’s tallest building, the 50-story One Canada Square tower.
Several of our leaders, including Eric Gordon, David Stevenson, Jonathan Hendricks, Saleem Haq, and Agha Hasan, have long-standing professional histories with Canary Wharf. One of our London Office associates, Sanja Buncic, is currently leading a project there. We talked to several of them about their experience working on the estate.
Jonathan’s Canary Wharf Projects include: 20 Fenchurch, Heron Quays West, Riverside South, and West Wintergarden
Jonathan, you’ve worked on a great deal of London projects. Which is your favourite and why?
“My favourite building at Canary Wharf is the West Winter Garden – a moment of tranquility within the hustle and bustle of the estate.
It is also a deceiving complex. As 100% of the structural steel and glass is exposed to view, every structural detail had to be designed to hide the electrical and mechanical systems that make the building work – and it was all contained within the steelwork. Due to the calm aesthetic, any small detail that wasn’t resolved would glaringly stand out and take away from the whole. It gave me a great appreciation for the amount of painstaking effort required to successfully achieve ‘simple’.”
Eric’s Canary Wharf Projects include Citigroup Tower, JP Morgan Chase Tower, One Canada Square, West Winter Garden, and the main Docklands Light Railway Station
You worked on what was, at the time, Britain’s tallest tower, One Canada Square. What is your most memorable moment from that project? Or the most complex challenge you faced on that project?
“I recall my first site visit being a seemingly never-ending car ride through the winding back streets of East London, which is a far cry from the transportation options that exist today.
The logistics of building a tall tower was somewhat new for many involved and required detailed collaboration between all the trades to maintain progress on site. Specifically, with the structural steel, steel deck, concrete, and curtain wall all working to maintain progress up the tower. Many trades and consultants were joint UK/Canadian partnerships, so it became a real international effort.
The perimeter tube system on One Canada Square was like that used on a previous project, Olympia and York Tower we had designed (at First Canadian Place in Toronto.) And much of the lessons learned there were brought to bear on One Canada Square.”
Saleem’s Canary Wharf Projects include 20 Fenchurch and Riverside South
What did you enjoy most about the projects you have worked on at Canary Wharf?
Currently, led by one of our London office leaders, Sanja Buncic, Entuitive is providing the design for six new play spaces at Wood Wharf.
Sanja – can you describe these projects for us?
“Wood Wharf is a new mixed-use development, adjacent to Canary Wharf. We have designed a series of inspiring, multi-sensory play spaces for children. Currently on site, South Dock Park Marvelous Maze will be a play space for children under five. Low serpentine hedges, created form fairfaced concrete cast in situ, lead towards discreet entrances into a soft, green maze. Details and patterns have been cast into the pigmented concrete surface to enrich the maze and create a sculptural, tactile experience. Our team was responsible for the design of all items as well as preparation of rebar schedules for this curvy maze.”
“The second playground for children under five in Wood Wharf is nearing completion. The architects were inspired by the occasional whale mistakenly swimming up the Thames. The playground design centers on the impressive bulk of a ‘whale’s body’ resting next to a textured bank, which offers sliding and climbing opportunities. The ‘whale’s spout’ is a hand-pumped, all-directional water fountain.”
Outside of the Estate: 20 Fenchurch
Saleem and Jonathan both worked on 20 Fenchurch, another Canary Wharf project in the heart of central London and is surrounded by closely located neighboring buildings and busy streets.
Saleem, what would you say was the biggest challenge on that project?
“One of the challenges was the constricted footprint of the site itself. The footprint of the building at street level is relatively small, however as the building rises past its neighboring historical buildings, it starts to flare out. The building has a highly distinctive shape, whereby the floor plates flare outwards to achieve a 50% area increase at the top compared with the ground level. The flared shape of tower results in geometric changes at each floor. At the second floor, the beams span 11m between the core and the perimeter column, but as the building flares out the perimeter of the building is up to 24m away from the core. All columns are inclined to the vertical, with the angle of inclination faceting at intervals up the building. Finally, at the top of the tower the Sky Garden – London’s first publicly accessible skyscraper observation deck – there is a triple-storey, column-free space, facing the River Thames, offering full unobstructed views of the City of London.”
And you, Jonathan?
“20 Fenchurch was the first building that Canary Wharf undertook off the estate and to meet their desire to assemble a team of trusted consultants around them, I moved my family, including my 6-month-old daughter, back to London. We lived there for just over a calendar year and in that time, we went from tweaking the massing of the building’s unique form to balance the structure, to coming up with a structural strategy to deal with the ever-growing floor plates, to foundations in the ground (threaded between the foundations from the tower that previously occupied the site), to basement completion, the concrete core topping out, and the structural steel being halfway up the building when I ultimately escorted my family onto the return flight to Canada. This whirlwind of activity was done under the backdrop of our company being acquired and our department being disbanded so I will always be proud of the dedication of our team to see this project through to a successful conclusion.”
Interested in learning more about this work? Contact Saleem Haq.