Have you visited the Sky Garden in the Walkie Talkie yet? After eagerly anticipating its opening I found it to be less garden, more cruise ship lobby. Some people loved it. I really didn’t. If you were also left disappointed by the Sky ‘Garden’ then I’ve got a great new urban garden for you – Crossrail Place Roof Garden in Canary Wharf.
Across London small 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. One of the 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 a roof garden. In preparation for my exam I needed to go into work to print some stuff off and so to get some fresh air I decided to take a little diversion and spend some time outside in Canary Wharf to see if Crossrail Place could restore my faith in urban green spaces (and keep my hopes up for the Garden Bridge).
The nearest station is Canary Wharf DLR station. Visible from there and only a few minutes’ walk away, Crossrail Place looks like the sort of space age structure you saw 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 actually is 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 (even though it’s just opened) is actually being used as a truly public space with people in suits tapping away on phones and laptops and young families alike enjoying the tranquility.
The plants are bedding in and have been chosen to reflect an East/West theme that references not only the upcoming Crossrail line but also the history of the area and the countries frequented by the trading ships that used the docks in the area. It’s well thought out and there are information boards which explain some of the history, lending a more educational and accessible air to it than the corporate slickness of the Walkie Talkie.
Designed by Foster and Partners, the lattice roof bears the hallmark of many of their other designs. I love their work (see a post a wrote a while ago on an architectural tour I took of the Gherkin) and this was no exception. It’s more natural than their 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.
I loved it and it made me wish I worked in Canary Wharf again. A few years ago I was seconded there for six months but in the winter. Canary Wharf is pretty much made for the winter because so much of it is underground. From leaving the DLR I would head downstairs into the underground shopping centre and from there could take an escalator straight into my office building. I never had to step foot outside, perfect when it’s freezing cold. However, at the moment I can imagine nothing better than a summer lunch break sat in the Crossrail Place Roof Garden.