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The Rise of Wood Wharf
Over the last few years, the top of the Island and Canary Wharf has seen unprecedented development with a number of large scale projects. One of the largest developments has been the Wood Wharf site which will have a mix of uses, including a residential area for over 3,200 new homes, nearly 2 million sq ft of commercial office space, and 335,000 sq ft of shops, restaurants and community uses.
Wood Wharf is part of the historic West India Docks and is the largest addition to the Canary Wharf estate since it came into being.
With part of the development near to completion, it is now possible to have a wander around some parts of Wood Wharf.
Wood Wharf is connected to the main estate by a bridge with two large Floating Pavilions nearby, one of which will be a restaurant.
Like Canary Wharf, Wood Wharf makes full use of the docks themselves with dockside walks and views from the Blue Bridge to the new buildings in the west.
The neighbourhood will have everything a thriving community needs, from a new local primary school to its own doctor’s surgery.
Like Canary Wharf, Wood Wharf already has plenty of outside public art and sitting areas.
Wood Wharf is multi-billion pound development and is expected to generate £2bn gross value from new jobs, add £199m into the local small business economy and generate 20,000 new jobs.
Under normal circumstances, the opening of Wood Wharf would a cause for celebration, however recent events have cast a cloud over the whole Canary Wharf site.
With many large firms allowing workers to work for home, many people are now looking at Wood Wharf and now asking whether it is surplus to requirements. Due to its mixed usage, it might escape the slowdown in Canary Wharf itself.
What the site does for visitors is provide plenty of attractive walks around the docks and places to sit and watch the boats and ships when they return to the dock.
New Artworks in Canary Wharf
After the latest lockdown, I decided to enter the brave new world by taking a walk around Canary Wharf and taking a look of some of their new artworks and to enjoy some spring sunshine.
During the lockdown a series of new works have appeared and other works have been relocated, here is quick tour around some of these pieces.
One of the most noticable new pieces is Gillie & Marc: Tandem Lovers 2020 in Reuters Plaza, ‘Tandem Lovers’ takes you on an adventure with Gillie and Marc’s characters, Rabbitwoman and Dogman.
Near the Canary Wharf station is Richard Hudson: Tear which offers a different perspective of the large buildings.
Although Cabot Square is dominated by Henry Moore’s Old Flo, and new piece tucked away is Bob Allen’s: It Takes Two which is a bronze cast of a carving from the fallen bough of an ancient English Yew listed in the Domesday Book.
Jubilee Park is full of new pieces including Helaine Blumenfeld’s Fortuna
For a pychedelic expereience go to Adams Plaza Bridge for Camille Walala’s Captivated By Colour
For something completely different, have a look at Julian Wild: Scribbleform
In the Crossrail Place Roof Garden is Michael Lyons: Shepherd of the Sun and Julian Wild’s Origin (Vertical)
Until the 19th of June, the roof garden is transformed into Crossorelle Roof Garden, a magical installation inspired by the Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech.
Created by artists Baker & Borowski, the design is inspired by the history of the West India Docks and the plants that were brought there from faraway lands, such as North Africa.
Although it may be too early to visit museums and art galleries, there is plenty to enjoy artistically wandering around Canary Wharf.
Around Millwall Dock with Loren Brand
© Photograph by Loren Brand
Before the Christmas lockdown, local photographer Loren Brand began to provide a visual update around the Island and Canary Wharf. Because of the large developments over the last few years, the skyline has changed considerably and it is a great time to get up to date with the ever changing landscape.
© Photograph by Loren Brand
One of the pleasures of living on the Isle of Dogs is it is a great place to walk. Unlike much of London, cars are not found in great numbers and much of the Island has areas to walk well away from the road. Although the promenades next to the Thames are lovely with wonderful views, the walk around Millwall Dock brings you to the heart of the Island and uncovers a number of surprising links to the past.
The Millwall Dock was opened in 1868 and is L-shaped, with a ‘Outer Dock’ running east-west, and a ‘Inner Dock’ running north from the eastern end. Millwall Docks originally contained around 36 acres of water and the site covered 200-acres. The western end of the Outer Dock was originally connected to the Thames at Millwall.
It is now possible to walk around the whole of Millwall Dock, which of course was not the case when the docks were working docks.
© Photograph by Loren Brand
Around the Inner Dock is new developments that have grown considerably in the last few years. Across the dock is the new Baltimore Tower and the Lotus Chinese Restaurant that has been on a large pontoon since 1994. Up from the restaurant is Harbour Exchange which has two 1960s cranes standing in front of the glass covered buildings.
© Photograph by Loren Brand
Glengall Bridge is where the inner and outer dock connect but also marks where many of the large developments cease and the older developments from the 1980s are in view. These older developments were part of more low level housing that used the space around the dock when it closed down.
The Outer Dock is much more relaxing with plenty of swans and ducks swimming amongst the sailing boats from the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre which is located at the far West end of the dock near where the dock previously connected to the Thames. The centre was set up in 1989 by the London Docklands Development Corporation and the Sports Council and provides plenty of water experiences to a wide range of people especially young people.
© Photograph by Loren Brand
Near to the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre was the large West Ferry Printing Works, which was the largest newspaper print works in Western Europe when it was built-in 1984–6. It has now been flattened for yet more residential development. Walking on the other side of the dock gives wonderful views of Canary Wharf and allows you to look at many of the new developments at the top of the Island.
If you carry on, you end up the picturesque Clippers Quay housing estate built in 1984–8. Although now filled with water, this was the site of Millwall Dock Graving Dock which was a dry dock for ship-repair which opened in 1868. Many famous ships have been repaired in this dry dock including the Cutty Sark. It was said this dry docks was the best on the Thames, it was one of the largest, at 413ft long by 65ft wide with a depth of 25ft. It was closed and flooded in 1968 and is a haven for birdlife with swans and ducks enjoying its quite secluded location.
© Photograph by Loren Brand
Walking on round the corner, you come across of a number of houseboats, mostly Dutch in origin , they offer some final interest before we come back to Glengall Bridge.
© Photograph by Loren Brand
Unlike West India Docks, the original buildings around Millwall Docks were more modest with sheds rather than grand warehouses. Therefore little remains from the estate from the working docks period other than 1960s cranes and a large number of bollards dotted about. But the docks themselves are still full of water and are an important resource for the Island. In the frantic redevelopment of the Island , the docks provides an attractive space and peaceful oasis to sit and watch the world go by.
If you would like to see more of Loren’s work, go to her website here and Instagram account here
Book Review: Love on the Isle of Dogs by Jude Cowan Montague
Recently I was contacted by writer, illustrator and broadcaster Jude Cowan Montague who has just published her latest book entitled Love on the Isle of Dogs.
The book is a graphic memoir of her early life against the background of a changing Isle of Dogs in the 1990s. Jude Cowan Montague lived on the Isle of Dogs with her husband in the early 1990s, it was a whirlwind romance and a very difficult time for her as she became quickly pregnant and her husband’s mental health began speedily to degenerate. The stress increased and the knock on effect for both after the separation dominated their lives for years to come.
What is unusual about the book is that the story is first told visually using drawings and then by using text.
Jude’s drawings illustrate how the Island provided the background for her life and romance. In the beginning, the drawings have a children’s picture book quality but gradually they become darker and more menacing.
Jude’s husband was one of the participants in a self-build scheme on Westferry Road and their house was close to Mudchute Farm, which became for Jude, a welcome escape from the pressures of modern living.
The text part of the book is more about how Jude tried to make sense of her life as it enfolded from working at an Arts Centre and moving forward to marriage and motherhood. It is an honest portrayal, full of unrealistic dreams, denial, love, concern, anger, fear and loss.
The book is very much a modern love story about romance, marriage and having a child. However, not every story has an happy ending and a series of incidents turns the relationship into a nightmare. The Isle of Dogs like any place is not just a location but a home to thousands of people. Those people all have a story to tell but not everyone can tell that story in such a graphic or creative way like Jude. It is her talent that she can see her own story in a wider perspective and understands that sometimes the environment reflects the personal. The confusion and changing times of early 1990s Docklands reflected the strangeness of a relationship that moved quickly from light to darkness.
These are lessons, all of us have had to deal with in recent times, when the familiar has become strange and unsettling. We can take some solace from Jude’s end of the book which reflects her hope and determination to create better times in the future.
You can order or buy a copy of the book here
Strange Times in Canary Wharf
Like many people during lockdown, I kept very much to my local area and did not do my usual wanderings around the Island. However with Canary Wharf in easy walking distance, I decided to have a wander around the large estate.
On the surface, little seems to have changed with gardeners tending the green areas and contractors working on the many building projects but what you begin to realise is that there are very few office workers and most of the people wandering about are wearing masks. The once bustling financial district which used to welcome over 120,000 workers each day is much emptier with estimates of less than 10,000 workers returning to their offices.
One noticeable change has been the often packed tube station is much quieter with the crowds now slowed to a trickle.
Many of the large banks and businesses seem in no hurry to get the thousands of workers back into Canary Wharf to their offices. To encourage workers to return, The Canary Wharf group has installed signs and created a one-way system for pedestrians, it is also regularly cleaning public areas and will manage the towers’ lifts to ensure social distancing. However, despite these measures, employers and employees show little urgency to return to their offices after several months of working from home.
One of the major problems is that the vast majority of people commute to the area using public transport, and many workers remain uneasy about being stuck in a crowded tube.
Walking around Canary Wharf, another realisation is that the many small businesses which rely on office workers are struggling with few or no customers. In pre-pandemic times there would be hundreds of people per day queuing for coffee or fast food, now it is just one or two.
Is this the end of Canary Wharf as we used to know it ?
One worry for the small businesses is that the thousands of office workers will never return in large numbers because of changing working patterns. Just a few months ago, Canary Wharf was looking forward to extending the estate with many new buildings and Crossrail poised to deal with the proposed increase in workers. Those plans now seem more than optimistic and the next few months will show if there is a market for office space or not.
The initial signs are not good, Morgan Stanley is said to be reviewing their London requirements, Credit Suisse is giving up some office space and Barclays is considering its headquarters altogether.
However, there is some people that suggest that even if the huge landmark office buildings are slowly being emptied, Canary Wharf could become the world’s biggest technology hub.
Over the years writing for Isle of Dogs Life, it has always surprised me how often history repeats itself. The docks were seen as an integral part of London but their time came and went. No area is safe from world events and Canary Wharf is probably facing its biggest challenge since it was raised from the ashes of the West India Docks.
The Commute of the Future at Canary Wharf
Bemused commuters outside Canary Wharf station were faced with what seemed like a large drone but may be part of the commute of the future.
A Bristol-based start-up Vertical Aerospace have been working on developing electric aircraft vehicles, designed specifically for vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL).
The company’s eVTOL aircraft named Seraph completed its first ever test flight in June last year when the 750kg aircraft successfully flew across Cotswold Airport in Kemble, Gloucestershire proving that its technology works and paving the way for eVTOL aircraft to be used in the future.
With the flight of the Seraph, Vertical Aerospace became the first company in the world to release flight footage of an eVTOL aircraft capable of carrying 250kg. The aircraft can reach speeds of up to 80kmph.
Founded by Stephen Fitzpatrick, Vertical Aerospace is building technology to revolutionise how people fly, by making air travel personal, on-demand and carbon free.
With more research and money being ploughed into electric aircraft vehicles like Vertical Aerospace’s eVTOL, there are a real possibility that many short-haul flights can be replaced with environmentally-friendly flying vehicles within four years.
It was a dream of many a young child in the 1960s, that flying vehicles would be the mode of the transport in the future, it may be possible that over half a century later it may becoming a reality.
Winter Lights Festival 2020 at Canary Wharf from 16 to 25th January 2020
If you are suffering January blues, it might worth making your way to Canary Wharf for their Winter Lights Festival. The festival returns for a sixth year bringing together some of the most imaginative light artists to create spectacular artworks, installations and experiences.
Some old favourites return and each year the festival seems to get bigger and better. The festival is great for all the family with plenty to entertain the children.
This year there are over 25 spectacular installations, there are pieces which can be admired from afar as well as those which will allow people to get up close and interact with them.
1: Mi-E Dor De Tine by Daisler Association, Middle Dock
This romantic message declares “I miss you”. Whilst there is no perfect translation, this is the closest adaptation for this Romanian saying. It refers to a deeper meaning about longing or missing someone.
2: Bit.fall by Julius Popp, Chancellor Passage
An ever-changing cascade of words created by thousands of falling illuminated water droplets. The words are derived from a number of live news sources including The Times, The Guardian and the BBC News.
3: The Clew by OTTOTTO, Cubitt Steps
Made from 100 circles of red light, The Clew is a beautiful structure created around the Cubitt Steps Bridge.
4: Liquid Sound by Entertainment Effects, Cabot Square
Once again, the much-loved fountain in Cabot Square has a makeover for Winter Lights with a display of music and light.
5: Absorbed by Light by Gali May Lucas, Cabot Square
Take a seat in between the three figures of Absorbed by Light, designed by the British Gali May Lucas and executed by Berlin-based sculptor Karoline Hinz.
Experience how it feels to be next to the characters on the bench.
6: Sky on Earth by UAII Studio, Columbus Courtyard
This atmospheric UK premiere is inspired by the experience of a night flight over storm clouds. Columbus Courtyard will be transformed into an electrifying life sized cloud made of foam.
7: Time & Tide by Paul & Pute, Columbus Courtyard
Time & Tide, with its hourglass design and colours inspired by nature, reminds us of the urgency of halting the plastic pollution of our oceans.
UK / Thailand
8: Shish-ka-buoy by Angus Muir Design, Westferry Circus
This fun installation is equally interesting by day as it is under the cover of darkness; during daylight hours, the large cluster landlocked six metre tall buoys absorb the light and give off a magical glow.
By night, thousands of LEDs inside create a whirl of colours and spherical gradients in this installation made from fully recyclable polyethylene marine buoys.
9: Lactolight by Lactolight, Westferry Circus
7,344 recycled plastic milk bottles become individual pixels in a giant low-res video screen. Programmed light depicting colours and patterns combined with a custom built soundscape gives you an overall sensory experience.
10: Stratum by Studio Chevalvert, Westferry Circus
Stratum is an interactive installation made up of 92 illuminated metal totems. Visitors are invited to move their hand over the sensor to trigger movement in the artwork.
11: Mountain of Light by Angus Muir Design, Wren Landing
Mountain of Light is a monolithic installation, towering to a height of four meters and brought to life by a dramatic repertoire of lighting effects that begin with subtle changes in shade and culminate in an intense mash up of colours.
12: Ditto by Ithaca Studio, Wren Landing
A column of light repeating infinitely above and below the audience. Enter the space and experience light and sound swirling around overhead and underfoot trailing into infinity and creating beautiful reflections and colours in both daytime and evening.
13: Luma Paint Light Graffiti by Lichtfaktor and Bomber Graffiti, Crossrail Place Roof Garden
Create your own unique light painting!
In 2008 Lichtfaktor developed the first real time Light Painting Software. It works on any object, from cars to buildings, transforming almost any object into a living paint canvas so you can create stunning paintings in just a few seconds.
14: Aquatics by Philipp Artus, Crossrail Place, Level -1, Quayside
Animated water creatures swim and dive around each other in this mesmerizing and delightful interactive light installation.
15: Desire by UxU Studio, Crossrail Place, Level -1, Quayside
Desire is a playful, sensual design that at first glance looks like giant, red lips. From the side, the image of the lips disappears, and you see a heartbeat instead – a heart beating faster with strong desires.
16: Constellations by Studio Joanie Lemercier, North Dock, viewing point at Crossrail Place, Level -1 Quayside
Making its London debut, Joanie Lemercier’s Constellations takes us on a trip through space with visuals projected onto a giant water screen with an electronic soundscapes by producer Paul Jebanasam.
France / Belgium
17: Seed of Life by Amberlights, Canada Place, Level -1, outside Waitrose
Enter the Seed of Life and discover a metallic rainbow spectrum of colours created by reflections and refractions from the natural elements of the daylight.
18: Lightbench by LBO Lichtbank, Canada Square Park
A firm Canary Wharf favourite, our ten stunning light benches, form part of the permanent art collection.
19: Neon Tree by Hawthorn, Canada Square Park
Neon flex will transform a tree into a striking sculpture in the heart of Canada Square Park. This colourful display will shine subtly by day and dazzle by night.
20: The Bra Tree, Canada Square Park
Drawing inspiration from a tradition on the American ski slopes of throwing your bra onto a tree, Canary Wharf will host their own special illuminated version.
21: Affinity by Amigo & Amigo and S1T2, Montgomery Square
Affinity is an immersive, interactive light sculpture inspired by the dazzling complexity and connectivity of the human brain.
22: Pools of Light, Jubilee Park
The ponds at Jubilee Park are getting a makeover for Winter Lights. See them transformed by thousands of colourful illumined orbs, weaving a stunning stream of light and sound through the park.
23: Squiggle by Angus Muir Design, Jubilee Park
Squiggle is a winding mass of 450 metres of digital neon tubing twisting and turning to fill Jubilee Park. This unique sensory journey is created by the artist’s innovative manipulation of space and sense.
24: 16 bits by Parker Heyl, Jubilee Place
Parker Heyl has a mechanical engineering and robotics background and is interested in kinetic sculpture for live performance.
The installation was developed as part of the Analog Future project at the Interactive Architecture Lab at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL
25: Chromatic Play by Tine Bech Studio, Jubilee Park
These fun, illuminated sculptures invite you to interact with them. Each glowing creature has alien-like antennae fitted with interactive sensors, so when a visitor is in close proximity their presence is detected and the colours begin to change.
26: SASHA Trees by ADAM DecoLight, Ten Bank Street Park
Ten Bank Street becomes a magical winterscape as this new park is illuminated with glowing fir trees. The striking neon colours of the trees create a fantastic contrast with the surrounding buildings.
The Festival takes place from Tuesday 16 – Saturday 25 January 2019 between 4-10pm throughout Canary Wharf, the festival is free to attend.
Click here to download a map to help guide you round the festival
The Changing Face of Canary Wharf – June 2019
Each year, I try to keep readers up to date with some of the latest building developments on the Island and Canary Wharf. It has been a time when the various developments have progressed quickly and the new Canary Wharf skyline is beginning to take shape.
Whilst there are some major developments on the Island, most of the larger developments are around Millwall Dock, Marsh Wall and especially overlooking the South Dock around South Quay and the developments in Canary Wharf are taking place in the east and west fringes of the estate. Two major schemes are under development, Wood Wharf and the Newfoundland development.
Both developments have made considerable progress with the buildings steadily moving upwards, the Wood Wharf site in particular is taking shape with its distinct residential tower climbing higher and other buildings in various states of development.
When completed the Wood Wharf site will have a mix of uses, including a residential area for over 3,200 new homes, nearly 2 million sq ft of commercial office space, and 335,000 sq ft of shops, restaurants and community uses.
At the other side of the Island, the 58-storey residential tower on the Newfoundland site is now well into construction with glass facades nearly completed.
If you think this will be tall, it will be dwarfed by the new development over the road from the Newfoundland site, it is based on the old City Arms site and is called the Landmark Pinnacle which will have 75 levels which the developers claim will be London’s largest residential tower. This will eventually be part of the Landmark complex which is situated near the site.
Along Marsh Wall are the beginnings of the Wardian towers, there will be two blocks at South Quay Plaza, Galliard are building more towers which will be part of Millharbour Village and finally there is the Madison scheme is progressing well.
It is remarkable that except for complaining about the various road and path closures and the disruption of lorries delivering materials, most people take very little notice of the various developments until they are completed.
It is worth noting that this is one of the biggest developments in the United Kingdom since Canary Wharf was built. Because most of the development has been concentrated at the top of the Island, there has not been widespread criticism, although many questions are being asked about coping with the increased population and the increase in workers coming into Canary Wharf to work. In the next few years, it is expected the population of the Isle of Dogs will be double that of 2011. The delay to Crossrail is not likely to impact too much due to the buildings state of development in not anywhere near completion.
The history of the Isle of Dogs has been about change, however in the next decade; the whole skyline of the Isle of Dogs will change dramatically. It is part of the process that started with the building of Canary Wharf skyscrapers that seemed to change London’s attitude to tall buildings forever.
Jeroen Swolfs: Streets of the World Exhibition in Canary Wharf – 2nd to 24 May 2019
In May, Canary Wharf presents Streets of the World, a outdoor exhibition of 195 large photo prints dotted around the Canary Wharf estate.
The exhibition is based on the work of Dutch photographer Jeroen Swolfs who spent seven years travelling the world and photographing the street life of 195 capital cities.
Swolfs travelled through the continents of Asia, Africa, North and South America, Europe and Oceania to record life in cities around the globe.
One of the inspirations for the journey was to explore about what a street means to society, education, wisdom, youth, experience, happiness, stories, food and so much more.
Streets of the World has already been shown in Dubai and Amsterdam, the exhibition at Canary Wharf will be its UK premiere.
A Trip to the Canary Wharf Wonderland by Jude Cowan Montague
Recently I published an article about Love on the Isle of Dogs, the latest work by writer, illustrator and broadcaster Jude Cowan Montague. I am delighted to say that Jude has produced a series of drawings that show Canary Wharf in a very different light. Canary Wharf may be the workplace for thousands of workers but there is no reason that children can turn it into something very different.
My daughter was born on the Isle of Dogs, in one of the self-builds on the Westferry Road. When she was young I would carry her to Mudchute Farm to see the animals. In the 1990s, Canary Wharf was not yet the glassy, chrome wonderland it’s become.
But I can imagine it as a strange kind of paradise for young eyes. There is the fairground ride of the DLR, the circuses, the huge towering, impossibly high mountains of buildings, so clean and crisp. It is a city that doesn’t obey ordinary suburban rules. And the docks, these wide expanses of water have a little magic of lakes, so deep, so close to the buildings. A touch of the Lake District here in London.
Thinking about Canary Wharf and surrounding areas from a child’s point of view took me back to my childhood, visiting places with my father that you wouldn’t expect a child to like. He was fascinated by military history and there are photographs of me sitting on tanks, eating lollies wearing a pretty dress with my smug brother looking as proud as if he had won a battle. I remember how industrial places felt too, the great abandoned factories of the north. I am originally from Manchester and Bolton.
I also thought of my childhood reading and the imaginary places of storybooks. Swallows and Amazons made me think of playing pirates. Even the word circus was evocative and I thought of tightrope walking on the guide rails. The fountains look like someone should be playing in them and I hope with time that more people do, especially children of workers and those who live locally.
Canary Wharf, with its dramatic scale, could re-engage with our inner child’s perception. It can be a tool to look at the modern world as a kind of unrealistic dream. There is a unrealism to the brassy image of shiny commerce. In these pictures I have used its dynamic environment as a trigger of wonder.
Many thanks to Jude for the drawings and text and if you like her work, she is currently raising funds to publish her latest work, Love on the Isle of Dogs – a graphic novel. If you would like to find out more or contribute, click the link here