Across London pockets of development are in place, building for the upcoming arrival of Crossrail, which should be in operation from 2018 and which will cut across London offering a high-speed connection from Reading to Abbey Wood and Shenfield via the centre of London. Meaning that from the Barbican we will be able to get to Canary Wharf in 6 minutes, Paddington 10 minutes and Heathrow 35 minutes. One of the Crossrail stations will be in Canary Wharf and its hub is now open and features various shops and eateries (including a third branch of The Big Easy) along with this roof garden.
Visible from Canary Wharf DLR station and only a few minutes’ walk away, is Crossrail Place. It looks like a seven storey space age structure familiar in science fiction films from the 1970s or 1980s. That first impression isn’t helped by the walkway up to it, which looks like it could have come straight out of Star Wars. But once you ascend an escalator you find yourself in a little oasis below the glass towers of Canary Wharf.
Unlike the Sky Garden, the garden at Crossrail Place is actually a garden, rather than a border. Paths wind through the space and benches are dotted here there and everywhere. As there’s no need to pre-book several days in advance and it’s free, it means that the Roof Garden is actually being used as a truly public space with people in suits tapping away on phones and laptops and young families enjoying the tranquillity.
Located within five minutes’ walk of both Canary Wharf and West India Quay stations, the roof garden draws on the heritage of the surrounding area: Crossrail Place sits on the Meridian Line, and the plants here have been chosen to reflect an East/West theme that references not only the upcoming Crossrail line arranged but depending on which hemisphere they come from with Asian plants such as bamboos to the east, and plants such as ferns from the Americas to the west. Information boards are placed throughout the Roof Garden explaining in more detail about the plants within it. Many of the plants in the garden are native to countries visited by ships of the West India Dock Company who unloaded here in the 1800s.
The contrast between these exotic plants and the architecture is wonderful, especially when the sun is shining through the glass and while the sun sets over east London’s horizon. Like many roof gardens in London, this one is super-hidden and known only to a few who wander down its peaceful avenues and escape the busy streets below
Nestled within the Roof Garden, a 60 seater performance space ignites the imaginations of children and adults alike. In summer, the Canary Wharf Group, in partnership with the Space Theatre, delivers a programme of theatre and music. With no private lets!
Designed by Foster and Partners, the lattice roof bears the hallmark of many of their other designs. It’s more natural than other city designs and is partially open to the elements, which allows for rain to water the garden and also for it to not feel too much like a greenhouse.
The roof garden, was landscaped by London-based studio Gillespies, is located directly beneath a 310-metre-long transparent hood. Triangular air-filled cushions made from ETFE – a type of plastic used for its resistance to corrosion – are set into the timber-latticed awning.
“Like Crossrail, one of the aims of the new roof garden is to connect London from east to west,” said Norman Foster in a statement. ”
“It provides a welcoming public space between the residential neighbourhood of Poplar and the business district of Canary Wharf, demonstrating the role of infrastructure as the ‘urban glue’ that binds a city together,” he added.
“The design of the garden responds to the architectural language of the roof in the creation of a unique and sheltered planting environment,” said Gillespies partner Stephen Richards. “It will offer visitors a totally new vantage point from which to look out across the water and the surrounding area.”
SJG-B May 2017