MITARBEIT: Patrick Schlüter, Silvio Dürring, Karin Hildingsson
BETREUUNG: Kees Christiaanse, Alexander Lehnerer



„A Chair is a very difficult object. A Skyscraper is almost easier“, stated the German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. In 1929, he was entrusted with the great responsibility to announce to the world that Germany had regained its cultural strength, one decade after the lost World War I. The Barcelona Expo was the first World Fair being held since the war and Germany, still struggling for political stability, was eager to demonstrate its revival.
Inspired by the folding Chairs of the Egyptian pharaohs and Roman emperors, Mies van der Rohe, along with his partner Lilly Reich, designed the Barcelona Chair with a chromed frame and an ivory colour leather seat. The creators enjoyed a immediate acclaim and the chair quickly gained the reputation of being „a design worthy of kings“. It was shown in Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, a milestone in modern architecture. The pavilion is known for its clear shape and extravagant materials, such as marble and travertine. It was regarded as a perfect environment for the chair.
80 years passed and even a chair of gold could not outplay the cultural and symbolic value of the Barcelona chair. Enriched by its historical reference and delicate materials, it became one of the most prestigious chairs ever and still can be found in places intended to be worthy of kings. The lobby of the One Canada Square building in the financial district Canary Wharf, east of London, is such a place, and so are most lobbies in Canary Wharf. The chair is present and used as for what it was initially intended for: representation. It is placed in the most representational space of the building, the lobby. This is supposed to be the entrance and the first impression you get of a building, hence a main part of its program.
 Most of the lobbies in the financial district look alike. It is obviously not coincidentally, but all are imitating the same prototype, the Barcelona Pavilion as its ideal of style, supplied with typological inevitabilities: a security guard, pieces of modern art, a shiny receptionist behind a shiny reception desk and a company logo for the sake of orientation.
But although the buildings in Canary Wharf are working at full capacity, hardly anyone enters the lobby. It is empty and although the notion of the lobby is justified by its architecture, it is questioned or ignored by its intended users. 


The entrances to the lobbies are generous gestures towards the street. Protected by wide canopies, they mark the gateway between the inside and the outside of the building. Equally generous streets connect the buildings to one another and to a variety plazas and further streets. The geometrical spectrum of the streets and plazas ranges from circles and semicircles to rectangles and squares, their occurrence from baroque rigidity to romantic wilderness. It looks like someone copied approved concepts from all over the world and throughout the history of urban and landscape design to reassemble them at the same time in the same place. Except maybe for that the people got lost in the copy past and paste process. Even though there are currently more than 70 000 employees working in the buildings surrounded by what officially is named “public open space” and despite the careful design of these spaces, they remain empty and quiet. No children are playing, no
couples are strolling and no old peoples are sitting on the many benches. Except for a few cabs, there are barley any cars that could legitimate the generous streets and there are too few people to give the plazas’ raison d’être.
The smokers are the only element that recalls the initial rendering of the public open spaces of the Canary Wharf project. All the happy, coffee drinking yuppies, engaged in lively discussions, are lacking. The streets and plazas are not crowded. Something went wrong in the translation of the rendering into reality. 
The plans for open public space in Canary Wharf relied on a vividness, that never occurred.


The whole development of Canary Wharf follows a master plan, designed by one of the largest architectural firms worldwide, the Chicago-based SOM. Despite the huge effort, they put in the space in between the buildings; it appears as an inconspicuous pattern, a caricature of public space. This space did not grow out of needs. It was never adjusted and occurs to be too big. Actually, the space did not grow at all, it was suddenly there. It was all built at once with the appearance of a long history, but totally inapt to cope with current users.
The initial developer of Canary Wharf, Olympia and York bought 12.2 million square feet land in one go. Today, after merely twenty years of development, 14.1 million square feet of office and retail space is completed. The speed and size of the development led to the planning approach to set up an environment from scratch. This led to an environment, which was not meant to evolve, but to be. This made initial miscalculations, concerning the use of space for example, hard to adjust. Nowadays, virtually only smokers have reason to walk on the surface. It is the only place where they can indulge their addiction. Life happens elsewhere. Underneath.


Canary Wharfs underground system turns out to be its main street, canalising half a million people per week between more than two hundred shops and restaurants. Despite the lack of sunlight, it is vivid and crowded one floor below the open public space. The only thing that makes sure that you do not forget where you are is the omnipresence of the marble and security guards.
 The absence of cars on the top is partly due to prohibition of car parks. Either you have to park outside of Canary Wharf or underneath, in the giant parking garage. Only buses and taxis use the surface network, while everything else happens far beneath. There are direct connections from the garages to the shopping mall as well as to the offices. The ground floor is almost made redundant. Under the surface, all the buildings are very well linked. Actually, underneath, Canary Wharf feels like one big building.
In a time when every invention that functions well entails fake copies, this world copies things from the past, that have no more actual function anymore. They are positioned in the present in order to be evocative of a bygone world. The use does not take place within the programmed elements of this architecture. These often seem to be reduced to symbols that outlived their initial purpose. They have no reason whatsoever but appeasing people and make them think: “It’s good to see that things haven’t changed and everything looks like it ought to look!” But indeed things have changed, things are changing and things will be changing at an ever increasing pace; the architecture suggests it is still the same.


The Streets are lined with mature English Oaks, Silver Limes and Horse Chestnuts. All these trees are way beyond their fifties. The streets themselves, on the other hand, were built a mere twenty years ago, along with the shopping malls and parking garages under its feet. 
Canary Wharf, one of world’s most successful business districts, is a youngster compared to New York, City of London and most other Central Business District with similar importance. Canary Wharf hates that fact. It is breathlessly undertaking a huge effort to make itself look old and wise. 
Nature is a creditable indicator of age; no one can make a tree accelerate its speed of growth two or three times as fast as it does out in the wilderness. But one can dig out a tree, including its age, fly it over to another location and plant it and its age. In this case four hundred aged trees were flown from Hamburg to London. While nature is creditable, it is still very subtle. Architecture can do more.


Behind the trees, massive buildings define and dominate the streetscape.
“The objective was to create a strictly contemporary idiom of the scale, mass and decoration found in urban landscapes from the Renaissance up to the end of the last century” states Roy Strong, consultant of open public space in Canary Wharf and former director of Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. Strictly contemporary with the means of the past? If one walks along the Axe Historique in Paris, initiated by Louis IV’s personal architect, going from Napoleon Bonaparte’s Arch de Triomphe to Mitterrand’s Version of an Arch de Triomphe, La Grand Arch, one can feel the historical importance of this place. Canary Wharf learned its lesson and served itself from the long history of built environment. Place some Period-Style street furniture, some neo-classic buildings with a perforated stone-façade and decent height and continue with some modern glass-and-steel office towers as we know them from the cover of the book “global cities”. There you have your Axe Historique! Do you? 
“The eastern side of Canary Wharf has seen a move from contextualism with London’s existing streetscapes to a more free-spirited approach that takes as much from British architectural achievements as from American” SOM Design Partner, Adrian Smith. 
The various architects took inspiration from the renaissance, imitated Frank Lloyd Wrights John Wax building, or built straight glass and steel towers. The variety lies in the references, not in the actual age of the buildings. Canary Wharf with all its towers was and is built out of one structure. The facades vary but the construction grid remains the same. The facades in Canary Wharf are just the tip of the iceberg, a lot of very individualistic tips of the very same iceberg. The actual difference in different typologies is not what matters, but the appearance of such a difference.  


The project area for the master plan contains 15 000 000 square feet and was drawn for 200 000 „confidently expected” jobs. It was therefore a grand gesture, in ambition and complexity comparable with the Hausmannian planning for Paris in the 19th century. But instead of reducing volume to achieve a generous public space, the master planners SOM had to create volumes for the same purpose. Unlike Haussmann, their job was not to bring a large-scale organisation into a deeply fragmented, organic city, but to set up a large-scale organisation out of nothing. As a result, there was a significant lack of details in human scale that could balance the super-size office-towers. 
The Canary Wharf group, the current developer of Canary Wharf, states on their website, that they have “a strong belief in the role, that artists and designers can play to help to create a more humane and pleasurable built environment.” Regarding the fifty-two pieces of art sprinkled all over the exterior space of Canary wharf, there was a strong need for a “more human and pleasurable built environment”. 
The consultant for open public space, Sir Roy Strong, was in charge of making this environment happen. His task was to create a unique identity in Canary Wharf and to insert those elements that play part in the pleasure of being in the city. Walking around in London, he realised that such details as signs, street furniture and planting are what he was looking for. He chose a great variety of artists in order to reach the level of detail, which he found in the City of London and elsewhere. 
But for some reason Canary Wharf feels like an apartment, in which the architect designed all furniture himself, chose the drawings on the wall and positioned a piano in the corner, although no one can play it. Instead of allowing something to happen on the initiative of the users, everything is strictly controlled, everything down to the smallest detail, down to the things that should create identity. 


The ground on which Canary Wharf is built, a dockland area called Isle of Dogs, has a rich and eventful past. It was turned from marshland in the 18th century into a world trade skipping centre around 1900, was bombed in the Second World War and after a short revival abandoned in the sixties and seventies. In 1989, when the first pile was driven into the ground, indicatively by UK’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, almost everything was torn down, and built up anew. A few buildings remained however, like the Museum in Docklands, which was found to be in an “outstanding quality and threat under threat”, which is one definition for becoming a British Heritage. It used to be a warehouse, one of the oldest in the area and was transformed into a local museum. Other conversion-projects, such as restaurants and bars next to the museum were less successful and stayed rather empty for a long time. The emptiness of a museum is at least less eye-catching.
The idea of a museum was significant for Canary Wharf’s handling of history. Just like the pieces of art, there are equally exposed pieces of history to be found in the area. Historic structure and substance doesn‘t serve as ground or context for the new, but is, isolated, unused and detached from its initial meaning, added to a completely changed environment. There is for example the Hibbert Gate in the northern part of Canary Wharf. It was erected in 1803 with the first docks on the Isle of dogs, the West India Docks. As the main entrance, it became an emblem for this part of the area. More than a century later, in 1932, it was dismantled because its narrow archway impeded traffic. Seventy years later, the Canary Wharf Group commissioned the reconstruction of the gate to celebrate the anniversary of the 200-year-old docks. The reconstruction was smaller and positioned in the middle of a square a few hundred meters fromits original position. You can still walk through, but you might feel slightly ridiculous. It is not a gate leading from one place to another anymore. It has become another artefact, with which no one has ever reason to establish any kind of connection. These pieces are rather symbol for a strongly discontinuous history, than relicts that recalls the olden days.
The „open public space“ is not a ground, it is a thin skin to a large structure that starts from the lowest parking lot deep beneath, goes through the shopping mall up to the towers of Canary Wharf. A skin with tattoos of historical and modern facades, of streets and plazas, pierced with trees, art and artefacts.


Canary Wharf was intended to become a global operating financial district, comparable with the traditional financial district in London, the Square Mile. 
The most efficient shape for a finance-centre would be a low, big box, putting the horizontal over the vertical. New York’s high-rises were to quite some extent the product of preconditions and regulations such as the grid that clearly defined the borders of each block or the law that ensured a certain amount of daylight in the streets by defining the three dimensional envelope of each building. 
The designers of Canary Wharf had none of these restrictions. They were pretty much free to shape it however they wanted to. Their aim was to build a finance centre of highest efficiency. And they chose not to build a low and big but rather high and slim. It should become a well-composed group of about 30 High-rises. The tallest ones keep a decent distant to each other, not to disturb one another in the formal expression. An invisible line serves as axis, along which the volumes are mirrored with a slight distortion. This axis runs through the geometrical, organisational and symbolic centre of Canary Wharf - One Canada Square. This building reaches with its obelisk-shape far back in the history of mankind, back to one of the roots of monumental architecture, back to Egypt where Mies van der Rohe got inspirations for his Barcelona Chair. Its significant shape and extraordinary height made it become the particular symbol for what Canary Wharf
ever stood for during different periods of its history: success, failure and success again. 
The geometrical choices indicate the planers‘ consciousness of the literal value of a long-established visual appearance on the large scale, even if they require cut backs in the functional logic.
The symbols associated with Downtown, Centre and Power, are stronger in the long term than a program-driven hyper-efficient shape. This symbol is the cities ultimate fingerprint: the skyline.


In 2008 Canary Wharf development was only warming up. The pipeline is filled with plans for new buildings at the border of the current site, either in design progress or already under construction. The buildings to come will be even bigger and enlarge Canary Wharfs footprint in all possible directions. 
The critical mass of buildings that the initial symmetrical and hierarchical composition can bear is exceeded now. As an effect, the complex will turn into a broader assemblage, large enough to handle many towers and establish many centres. Just like Manhattan, the Loop of Chicago or any other downtown of a decent size. That is what Canary Wharf is longing for after all.
But despite its seemingly bright future, its past is far from a continuous success story. In 1992, One Canada Square stood with its top half in darkness, the developers Olympia and York had filed for bankruptcy and the planed tube station, the long awaited link to the centre of London, had not even started its construction. Previously, the London commercial market had collapsed and Margaret Thatcher, who in many respects drove Canary Wharf’s first pillar in the ground, had fallen from power. 

Prime minister Thatcher pressed the country towards free marked and privatisation. With a strong hand, she cleared the way for Canary Wharf in the early eighties by setting up free enterprise zones, which granted freedom from planning controls with a ten-year relief from local tax rates. One of these zones was installed on one of London’s most rundown area, on Isle of Dogs. This was the ground, on which the rival of London’s central business district would rise. A place that mainly contrasted what canary wharf, the business district, was going to become.


Just a few hundred meters south to where Jack the Ripper stroke terror into people’s hearts, a meander of the Thames forms a peninsula, the Isle of Dogs. In 1802 it was cut off from London by the construction of three docks at its north end, heralding the areas future as an important trade centre but also its emergence as an island. Both, the economic prosperity and the spatial fragmentation introduced by the first docks,  would repeat itself frequently throughout history. The most recent example is Canary Wharf, though significantly different to the first one, 200 years ago. Both are situated at the isles north end and mark its border to the rest of London. Canary Wharf is even situated within the former docks and they vanish just as Canary Wharf expands. While the docks were an inherent part of the island’s culture and economy, Canary Wharf is in many ways itself an island on the isle.
The docks offered jobs and drew people to Isle of Dogs. Up to 21000 people lives and worked here at the beginning of the 20th century. Those formed a headstrong and introverted population of dock-workers and their families with an identity deeply connected to their physical environment. There were shops, schools, church and work on the island and there was hardly ever a reason to leave the island.

The isle was in bloom, when the Second World War broke out. Being one of the busiest trade centres in the world, it became a key target for the German air force. In 1945, one third of the built structure was destroyed with a great loss of lives and material value. Although the war-torn isle was resurrected soon, the seed for its next downfall was already sowed during the war. The need for efficiency in the act of destruction has often stimulated technological progress. Efficiency means reaching more with less effort. Less effort might cause the uselessness and redundancy of previous structures. The docks and the dock-workers were such.

When America intervened the Second World War, it turned into an overseas war and transport became a major issue. The speed of loading and unloading ships was insufficient, wherefore standardised steel-containers were developed in the United States. After the war, these containers quickly became the worldwide standard and the whole industry adapted to them. The containers required larger vessels, which could only be accommodated by deep-water ports. The docks in east London were not deep enough and became almost obsolete within two years. After the closing of the docks during the sixties and seventies, mass-unemployment struck the island and caused immense social problems.
In the course of half a century, the Isle of Dogs as a node in the global network of exchange of goods vanished and a node of global financial flows arouse from its ashes. This marks the progression of economy towards a complex information system, spatially detached from goods. Work of intellectual nature replaced physical labour. 
Despite this massive structural change, the importance of World Trade Centre’s did not fade. This was sadly expressed through violence. 
The docks were a strategic target during the World War, with the objective of hurting the economy where it was the most vulnerable. Fifty years later, in 1992, the IRA tried to bomb One Canada Square. A second attempt was made in 1996 when a bomb detonated south of Canary Wharf, killing two people. This did not actually harm the economy, but the bombs were nevertheless placed carefully and effective: At a symbolic node of international financial flows. Injuring a symbol draws attention. And attention is a rare good these days. 


The war was the beginning of the end of the isle as an entirety. Looking at today’s street-pattern, it is hard to imagine the homogenous working-class settlement that once stood here. Housing was shabby and poverty was widespread prior to the war. On the other hand, there was coherence of the people, their culture and work as well as of the social structure, the street pattern and built environment. The speed with which the isle grew to this state was rather slow compared to the development after the war. The isle had an inherent, comprehensive logic.

Today, the only thing that old inhabitants still refer to as constant on the Isle of Dogs is Mudchute Park. It is a park, built on the excavations of the docks, which was too complicated to build on and stood empty for a long time. It proved popular with the dock-workers and their families and still does with today’s population. It is the one thing on the isle that has neither changed its shape nor its use throughout time.
Other remains of the past still look the same, but changed or rather lost their use and meaning to the inhabitants. The docks for example got rediscovered as a profitable argument for selling luxury-housing developments. „Housing on the waterfront!“. It furthermore serves as moat for Canary Wharf. 


As part of a large-scale immigration from commonwealth countries, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis started to settle on the Isle of Dogs in the post-war period. For the first time in 150 years someone did not come to work in the docks and join the docker-community. Instead, the immigrants worked in traditional East End industries, particularly clothing industry, and lived in their own solitary community. Today, half of the population in the borough comes from minority ethnic background.
It was the last large invasion of people to make the isle their homeland. The next invasion, in the eighties and nineties, is better described as fluctuation of people. The common ground for this new population was neither work nor culture, but their high income. While there are still descendants of all these invasions on the isle, the success of Canary Wharf raised the ground-prices to create a strong rise of the high-income-inhabitants.


The plan for the rebuilding of the isle after the war envisioned a fundamental renewal of the fairly rundown residential-areas. Small houses, not all of them in bad condition, were tore down and made way for new large-scale social housing developments in the sixties. 

Samuda Estate in the east of the isle is one of them. It is a slightly inauspicious adaptation of Corbusiers' Unité d'Habitation, which was also built because of the post-war need for cheap housing. The estate consists of 505 dwellings for more than 1500 people. The housing blocks are mostly connected with bridge-corridors and placed around generous and lively used public spaces. The corridors are a typical element of the social housing in this area and reflect ideals from the time of their origin. It‘s a fine graduation of publicity from the main street, to the court to the corridors to the apartments that should and does to some extent match the social structure of its inhabitants. Most people already live here for decades and know each other. These are two things that would not be found in the housing of the private sector of the eighties and nineties, with a direct effect on their spatial conception respectively on the conception of their borderline to publicity.
In 2005 the Samuda Estate got privatised. The bridge-corridors will be removed, as they are not easy to control. And control seems to be, after all, the only reliable action to provide security. Control through the CCTV-cameras sprinkled all over the estate as eye-extensions of the watchman, sitting in the basement. The average Londoner gets caught 300 times a day by a CCTV camera. They are everywhere. 4.3 million CCTV cameras are installed in the UK by date. While in Zurich for example, the surveillance-cams are hidden with the effect that you feel secure, in London they are over-exposed with the same effect. In Zurich, you see the lack of crime-protection and conclude the absence of crime. In London, you see crime-protection and conclude protection of potential crime. 
The building boom of the sixties did not take long for the reason of a radical demographic change, induced by the decline of the industry.
The closing of the docks deprived the dockers of their common ground, the work. All that made up their common identity was in the past, which faded at the same pace as  the constant destruction of the built environment. Whoever could, moved away. The population decreased from 22 000 in 1967 to 4100 in 1980. The value of the houses and factories dropped even faster.


In the late eighties, luxury-segment housing emerged everywhere along the Thames. The simplified building-process, which was part of the new Dockland Development to resurrect the area after the decline, attracted investors and induced a new building boom. This time it came from the private sector.
It was the Thatcher government that brought the London Dockland Development Corporation (LDDC) into life in 1981, 2 years before the enterprise zone in the dock-lands was set up. LDDC should make way for private investors and give them the perfect framework for developments on the isle. The perfect framework meant the reduction of interference from the public sector, freedom from regulations in the building process and provision of basic infrastructures.

One of the first developments was the London yard, just next to the Samuda Estate. London Yard was completed in 1988. In 1978, one year before the start of the Thatcher-era, a group of local people undertook a feasibility study on how the site, by then unused, could be used for the benefit of the local community. The study proposed that the public sector should build flats on the site together with a water sports centre; a boat repair centre and a clubroom. A Tenants Hall to be shared with the Samuda Estate was also proposed. The plan was supported by the Greater London Council, which was the public sector in charge. But, with the advent of LDDC, the plans were stopped and London Yard was built by Dutch investors. It was prudentially designed not to face the Samuda Estate. Windows are avoided on the southern side and only technical installations can be seen from the social housing blocks. In 1995 LDDC met 90% of the cost for building a new wall and restoring the wall towards the Samuda Estate. 
Another notable development is Pepper Street in the centre of the Isle of Dogs. It is a carefully designed building cluster, which tries to imitate a placid living quarter with plazas, benches and snug street furniture. The red little houses have nice little balconies and the stone-floor, which ends at the property boundary creates an atmosphere of a publicly and privately very well ordered lifestyle.  

The public spaces around Pepper Street recall the ones in Canary Wharf. It is not only the use of design furniture, but also lacking use of the furniture by the public shows striking similarities. Just like a film-scenery after closing time, you find everything in flawless condition, empty and lifeless. It actually did serve as setting during a chase in the James Bond film “The World is not Enough“ from 1991.
Unlike Canary Wharf, this development was clearly meant and built as a residential area. But still there are no children playing, couples strolling and retirees sitting on the benches. “Offices to let“, says a boards on the facades and corporate names on the mailboxes indicate the change of program that this little brick houses have undergone. Along with the change in use, the public space has a similar atmosphere as Canary Wharf.

The freedom provided by the LDDC attracted a lot of investors. Each one had his idea of what a housing estate should look like and they all built their visions. This led, in combination with the already built areas, to a street pattern of an almost ridiculous diversity, a patchwork of very different ideologies, from different times. Each part seems to be distrustful to the next one. Many connecting streets were not rebuilt after the war and newer developments usually have only one access. Walls with anti-climbing-paint, warning signs and security cameras are outlining and defining these little suburban clusters, but disconnected from the urban fabric. 

Crime is a big theme on the Isle of Dogs. The only police-station on the island is open between 12 a.m. and 4 p.m. Crime is a theme bigger than the real risk of crime. In comparison with both the rest of London and the rest of the borough Tower Hamlets, the crime rate is fairly low, whereas the emergency calls to the police is far above average. The expected security-standard by the newer inhabitants is very high and architecture is supposed to meet this challenge. Security is a selling point; and selling is the sole purpose of the architecture of the last twenty years. There‘s even a label for secure architecture called ”Secured by Design“, certificated by the institution with the same name. In order to sell well many architects want to fulfil the conditions for this certificate. To follow the advice given by “Secure by Design” often means ending up with an introvert castle.  
One wonders, when the critical mass is reached and everything in between, the relicts from before the boom, gets finally pushed out. When will the walls be torn down again, because all the neighbours are in the same social class anyway?
It seems the wall does not become obsolete as the income-level flattens. The wall is rather indicating the limited social links to the surrounding, the border of the inhabitants’ social landscape in the direct physical context, which coincides with the property boundary. This is for the reason that most new inhabitants are here on week nights only. They work at Canary Wharf and visit their family and second house somewhere in the suburbs of London on the weekends. It does not matter what is behind the wall, as long as there is a wall one does not have to be concerned. People come and go, enjoy the high-standard apartment, but are not rooted on the island. They are fluctuating.

The boom was interrupted by the property market-crisis in 1991, but it is gaining strength again. The 1.5 million housing units that will be required in greater London during the second decade of the 21st century in combination with Canary Wharf as neighbour makes the investors’ mouths water. Other neighbours like the social housing units dampen their joy a little. But there are, as said, ways – or walls - to handle this. Canary Wharf has demonstrated how to create an environment within a completely different environment without you ever noticing. A concept that was widely adapted in the further development of the isle. Introverted cells of various dimensions cover the isle. In the nineties the mono functionalism was severely questioned and the lacking link between the riverside residential areas, the office blocks and the City enhanced the situation. It became obvious that it had to change.  

The free enterprise zone was aimed for light industry and its freedom of planning control did not have much of an impact on the built environment in the first years. This radically changed when the developer Olympia and York bought 12.2 million square feet for development. The almost total freedom of planning did no longer affect the design of a few edifices, but the concept and design of a whole district. Actually a district that had the ambition to become the counterpart of London’s Central Business District, one of the most powerful business districts in the world. This happened within a seven year period.

There was no time to leave things to chance, to let see what would happen. Things needed to be planed and speedily forced to happen. 
There was the need for instant age, to provide instant credibility and dignity, the need for an environment with a certain depth and detail to provide pleasure and human scale, the need for space and infrastructure to accommodate a huge program, the need for absolute security, the need for Companies to come to this place and make the financial centre happen, the need for a down-town-flair, for the connection to the actual downtown and the rest of the world - just to name a few. Living up to these needs, demands a certain large scale and highly focused thinking. In seven years there is not much space for reaction; it is more about action, high-speed action. And high-speed action there was, in Canary Wharf. In 1984, the idea for Canary Wharf was born. In 1987, the London City airport nearby and the Light-railway station, both initiated by the LDDC, opened. In 1988, the construction of Canary Wharf begins. In 1990, the pyramid is placed on top of One Canada Square.
In 1991, phase one was completed. In 1992, Olympia and York filed for bankruptcy or, as its successor the Canary Wharf Group states on its website, “exits from administration”. In 1992, the One Canada Square stands half in darkness and tenant demand evaporates despite generous concessions.
One reason for the disaster was the property market that collapsed in 1991. Another one was the delayed construction of the extended Jubilee line, the main connection to the City, which was not even started.


In 1991, the huge financial district was connected to the light railway and had a small airport nearby, but the essential underground connection was still missing, 4 years after the construction started. The link to the established centre, the City of London would have been pivotal, and the investors knew this. Olympia and York promised to meet up half the cost of the extension of the Jubilee line. It was the bright shining example of public-private partnership, which was promoted by the Thatcher-government as the new way to develop the dock-lands. The brightness started to fade though, as the money from the private sector did not roll in. Not a penny made its way on the pay desk of the project and the Jubilee-line was put on ice and with it Canary Wharf. 

Canary Wharf is dead, long live Canary Wharf! But before its resurrection, ALL of the cost for the Jubilee line was paid by the tax-payer. The city could not afford the total failure and invested in Canary Wharf. In 1999, the Jubilee-extension was opened and Canary Wharfs‘ working population quadrupled from 15,000 in 1999 just before the opening of the Jubilee Line, to 63,000 in 2004. Foster and Partners, a London-based office of architecture, designed the Canary Wharf tube station. The airy impression is very different from the common tunnel-like London underground stations. In the drained arm of a former dock, the station is luxurious in terms of space and allows a psychological connection to the outside by letting natural light in. It was opened in 1999 by the Major of London, Ken Livingston and soon became the busiest station outside the City of London. The huge dimensions were chosen in consideration of the estimated 50 000 people passing through every day. In 2006 the number of passengers were already flirting with the 70 000 mark. The maximum is not reached during the busy weekdays, but at the weekends when people come to do their shopping in the underground mall. 


Not only the working population quadrupled, but also the number of shops and restaurants increased rapidly. Starting with fifteen shops and restaurant in 1993, there are now more than 200 of them. One floor below the surface, a huge shopping mall emerged over time and made Canary Wharf a business and shopping centre. The shops are not supplying the employees in the high rises. They are not for the employees at all. Not that they would not be allowed to shop there, but there is no need. It is waste of time, hence money, if an employee schedules some shopping, a visit to the dentist, some fitness training or visit in a restaurant during his workingday. He would eventually need to use public transport across the city, traverse public spaces in the city and use the city. 

There are better solutions, as the Credite Swiss Building in Canary Wharf shows: insourcing! There is a dentist, a shopping mall, a gym, several restaurants and whatever else you could ever want in the private building. The shopping mall in the underground is meant for those coming from greater London. Its function is separated from the Canary Wharf office complex. What you get are people from greater London in the “public“ space underneath the towers, the people from Canary Wharf in their even more private "public“ space in the towers and no one in the planned „public“ space on ground level. There is an extreme concentration of functions and at the same time a severe disjunction of functions. 
Some people work in Canary Wharf; have a flat on the isle and a house with family in the suburbs. Some live in greater London and come to Canary Wharf’s canalisation to hang out, drink some coffee in cafés without daylight and do some shopping in shops you find anywhere in the City. Le Corbusier proposed in the twenties the separation of functions in the City. 
What you get are people from London in the privat „public“ space underneath the towers, the people from Canary Wharf in their even more privat „public“ space in the towers and approximately no one in the planned „public“ space in between the towers. A super-concentration of functions within single buildings and a super-disjunction of functions across a whole city. 
The transition of the harbour to what the isle embodies today, went along with decay, destruction and renewal of most that was ever built there. With fade of the people that used to live in what was there before, the memories fade and the past ends up in history-books, museums or reconstructed on some square in Canary Wharf. Past loses presence as time passes. Space is limited, new happens at the expense of old. Old decays if nothing new comes along. Unless conservators get wind of it.
Walking around on the isle, one is confronted to what is there. Googling around on the „isle of dogs“, one is confronted with half a million pages somehow connected to it. For „Canary Wharf“ there are even 2 millions pages. Content, ranging from videos made by teenagers about the cultural scene on the isle of dogs, to newspaper-articles of the last decades and from all over the world, maps that date back to the 18th centrury, musicians providing their songs about the isle, social networks of people that are in anyway connected to the isle, tonnes of photos, blogs about the daily life. Critical, dystopian, subjective, advertising, historical and whatever else content. A flood. Rich, dynamic, up to date, from multiple points of views. And, of capital importance, almost untroubled by decay or destruction. Rather contrariwise, the interconnection of existing content rises constantly. The content is a documentation of a time in terms of photos, videos, text or sound. And it is adding up, while the physical city is changing. Beyond the physical world and human mind, some kind of history is culminating.
Is public space everything beyond private space? Who cares about the public space somewhere under a sear tree in the Sahara? It might be public, but the connotation of „public space“ is a different one. The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman defined public space as space "where strangers coincide". In the public space of Canary Wharf, although almost everyone is a stranger, there is nothing strange about them. The behavior could not be more ordinary, even clothing seems to follow a specific ideal very tight. People hardly coincide with more than their cellphone. A employee of canary Wharf explained that all he expects from a public space is water, green stuff, something to sit on and a visible exit from the entrance. You can get all that in a private golf-club as well, including a caddy to approach the exit. But according to him, it is not about using the public space, but being aware that there is one. Just like the Barcelona chair. But unlike the chair, that is - though unused - still a chair that you could sit on, the „public space“ in Canary Wharf is not a public space, but a private space, named „public space“ and built according the common idea of public space. The visual idea, not the conceptual one. This illusion works perfectly as long as one stays within the narrow boundaries of allowed behavior and, for instance, does not take photos. If one does „misbehave“, he will soon get the nice company of security guards. 
If public space was where strangers coincide, it would be more of a public space, if you get, for example, a fundamental moslem extremist of Saudi Arabia to talk with a english Neonazi about the plans of a new mosque on the Isle of Dogs. This would be kind of a über-public-space based on Baumans‘ definition, purer than any public space before, multi-culti at its best. But firstly, they would never meet in real world. If they did, they would not talk. If they talked, they would hardly be honest. If they were, they would hardly take leave of each other physically intact. But exactly this sweet little discussion happened and similar ones are happening all day, without injuring any one. They do not happen in real space, but within the space-independent communication-network internet. 
Videoplatforms as an example are vividly used across the globe to discuss anything imaginable, pretty controversially if it comes to things like religion, politics or alike. Discussions that have hardly been held before, and pretty certainly were not documented, accessible and free to join for anyone with internet-access, which are by now already large parts of the world population.
"There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families." stated Margret Thatcher, driving force behind Canary Wharf and the more recent housing developments on the southern part of the isle. Regarding the built structure, it seems that she was either right in the first place, or the developers bought into it and planed according to that credo. The isle is not built for supra-family social structures, known as society. Walls clearly mark where one entity ends and the next begins. Streets are for transmission of people. In large parts of the isle, sidewalks, once by Jane Jacobs zealously described as potential platforms of social activity of all kinds, are sidewalks in their literal meaning: strips on the side of the street where people walk on. Because there is no social activity, due to the general lack of society. At least it is not mirrored in the structure. But if one takes a closer look at the isle, he discovers indeed social activity, even a very vivid one. Relations are established across walls and waters. There are, for example, more than a dozen community centers, for various ethnical and age groups, as well as trans-ethnic and mixed age groups. They are mostly led by local inhabitants and provide all kind of cultural and educational activity and facilities like internet-access. But community centers are social centers; centers within a structurally centre-less environment. Many neighbors still won't meet at the property line, but may have a coffee at the community centre or a beer in the pub. 
Some of the isles on the isle turn out to be rather well-connected to one another. Others, mainly the gated communities and developments of the last twenty years, remain insular and disconnected from their technical neighborhood. Their inhabitants are not anti-social, but part of a community that is less bonded to a specific space. They came but did not grow up here. A trip down their memory lanes on the isle will not end up far from now. They use the apartments solely as living-, and more often only sleeping-space. Transport-infrastructure allows and enhances this fragmentation of life and reallocation to various separated spaces. Communication-infrastructure expands the connection of people to realms even further. While Transport is getting faster and cheaper year after year, communication is approaching infinite speed and very low cost. And if speed is distant per time (it is!), then distance does not matter anymore. At the first sight. 
The communication-infrastructure of the 21. century is the Internet. It is, in spite of its short lifetime, widely adapted among people by now. For instance community centers on the isle of dogs do not only provide access to, but also have an appearance on the Internet. Even those run by the church, probably the most backward institution ever. No one gets around it and would be a fool to try so. But some avail themselves more of it, others less. The community-centre and pub "The Space", for example, does not only provide information for its visitors, but tracks and keeps in touch with musicians, artist and performers by the means of this communication channel. They have a profile on a social platform, that links them to their guests, visitors and other pubs all over London and beyond. Everyone of them is himself „connected“ to various further people. The whole platform, called myspace, has worldwide 180 Million members. This network draws people to the pub, that would never have set a foot on the isle. The connections through the internet are connections from one place to another and change their relation therefore. The virtual feeds back to the city or is even part of it, growing massively faster than Its physical counterpart. Although these infrastructures are losing physical footprint they are gaining in spatial importance as it affects not only the relation but also dispersal of people. More and more aspects of life of more and more people get infiltrated by these technologies, aspects that used to happen within the city. Either intensifying, reallocating or abandoning them. While the visual image, the shape of the city has not changed significantly, its underlying organization, the society, is about to reshape itself in an unprecedented way and speed.
Canary Wharf contains companies and employees from all over the world. Far more than 90 000 people from various ethnical and cultural backgrounds work within the borders of the same complex of buildings. Probably none of them grew up in an office tower, certainly no one in Canary Wharf. They have no personal or common history tied to that place, these people or these buildings. But nevertheless, Canary Wharf is often considered as an important part of their Identity. „When I see the Skyline of Canary Wharf while arriving with the plane, I feel that this is my home“ noted a female employee. Even if one arrives for the first time in Canary Wharf, it does not feel unknown. Its appearance matches the common idea, the morphologic stereotype of a contemporary financial district. The notion contemporary indicates a relation to the conditions of the present day. But the common idea of contemporary is something else than contemporary, timely. This common idea is what a majority of people remembers to be a „contemporary financial district“. It is based on a collective memory. And memories are a thing of the past. On one hand personal and specific memories are responsible for the feeling of Identity that places can provide to people. On the other hand collective and abstract memories can be used to shape places that provide a feeling of identity.
At the end of 2008, there are more than 10 buildings, either proposed or already approved in Canary Wharf. They are adding another approximately 400 floors of office, retail and living-space to the island. Space, in terms of floors, is stacked along the lines of elevators and towards the sky. Bankers ascend hundreds of meters in no time and with no effort. 
It was after the invention of the safety-elevator when the first Skyscrapers arouse, which soon started to form completely new skylines of human settlements. Time loss and convenience in the movement leveled off while massive amount of usable space was added to the same footprint.
The structure for advanced horizontal movement in space is more of a net than single lines as those towards the sky. Year after year its meshes get smaller and smaller and its connecting lines get more and more efficient. trains, cars and alike let the world shrink and entailed new forms of urban developments and fresh distribution of function within the existing structures. 
Technological progress reshaped the dispersal of humans in space, maybe more effective than any architectural vision ever. It discloses potential, but does not impose ideology. Potentials that may or may not be used. Architecture and Urbanism may adapt to and take advantage of these changes, but don‘t induce them. More often than not, they do not even adapt consequently. And this even on purpose, as the example of Canary Wharf seems to suggest.
In the conception of Canary Wharf both the common visual idea of a financial district and effective functionality were taken into account. Skyscrapers and plazas; underground-shopping and concentration of „public“ and private services in totally private areas. Looking at it as a whole, it is not coherent. But there is no reason to look at it as a whole as its fragments work very well. 
Canary Wharfs‘ appearance, based on a retrospective fake program, and its function, based on a foresighted real program, can coexist although these two fragments of the Canary Wharf concept are contradictory. Actually they have to coexist as by their very nature, none of them can fill the gap of the other in what they provide for Canary Wharf. Schizophrenia? So what?
Writing on cities is a bustled search for patterns, potentials and defining moments in space and throughout time. These reveal themselves in the process of searching with a sensitive, almost vulnerable perception, largly without an idea what to look for. Space is the pivot point, yet not an absolute term. It is measurable, but large parts of human life slip the measurement. The relations within space and spaces are too complex as that a description of space in Euclidian terms could matter too much. The city is too manifold as that it could be realized as such, understood as an entity. Its structural logic changes throughout time, differs on different scales and from different points of view, to an extent where the term illogical stands to reason. Catalysed by the technology-induced ever increasing dynamic of cities, coherence of the history, shape and inhabitants are fading. The pendulum swings back, though. The creation of instant coherence comes as slowly evolved coherence goes. Any kind of environmental "coherence", anytime, anywhere. This time tailored to the hyper-connected 21. century inhabitant. The appearance of coherence serves as appeasing visual frame, for orientation in lives that can hardly be localized anymore. The definition of the city as the common spatial living ground of people becomes less and less relevant regarding the way people live. Bodies still need a physical environment, but the cognitive faculties ever deeper absorbed in virtual spaces that exist beyond and independent of cities. Space, Cities and Architecture will either fade in vacuity or merge with the emerging immaterial worlds.

Bansky, Wall and Piece, London, Century, 2005
Brownhill, Sue, Developing London’s Docklands- Another Great Planning
Disaster?, London, Paul Chapman Publishing Ltd, 1990
Cox, Alan, Docklands in the Making: The Redevelompent of The Isle of Dogs 1981-1995, “Survey of London”, London, The Athlone Press, 1995, S. 13, 20, 21
Hibbert Gate by 1800, Porter Stephen. (Ed.) 1994. Survey of London. Volume XLIII. Poplar, Blackwall and The Isle of Dogs. The Parish of All Saints.
London: The Athlone Press. (Published for the Royal Comission on the Historical Monuments of England.).
Barker, Paul, “Cedric Price: architect for life”, openDemogracy, http://www.opendemocracy.net/node/1464, 02.09.2003.
Bilddatenbank altes London:http://viewfinder.english-heritage.org.uk/home.asp?JS=True http://www.images-of-london.co.uk/
Borough of Tower Hamlets http://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk
British History - Survey of London online http://www.british-history.ac.uk
London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC)http://www.lddc-history.org.uk
Canary Wharf Group http://www.canarywharf.com
Samuda Estate, Wikipedia, http://enwikipedia.org/wiki/Samuda_Estate. Satellite Images. Google Earth; http://earth.google.de
Wikipedia http://de.wkikipedia.org/wiki/isle_of_Dogs
Photos and illustrations are taken and created by the authors, if not indicated differ-ently!
1.01 Title Image, Canary Wharf Arial View, http://www.flickr.comINSTANT AGE
2.01  Johnson Wax Building, Chicago,http://www.arclife.de/arcguide/architekturfuehrer
2.02  Colonnade, Bourse du Commerce, Paris, http://www.theflews.com/Paris/Wee10Pictures
2.03  Hibbert Gate by 1800, Porter Stephen. (Ed.) 1994. Survey of London. S 269, Fig. 104b.
3.01 Panorama Canary Wharf, http://www.englishheritageprints.com/image/Canary- Wharf-at-night-J060022_427958.jpg
3.02 Brownhill, Sue, Developing London’s Docklands- Another Great Planning
3.03 Hibbert Gate by 1800, Porter Stephen. (Ed.) 1994. Survey of London.
3.04 Hibbert Gate by 1800, Porter Stephen. (Ed.) 1994. Survey of London.
3.05 Blitzkrieg London, http://airminded.org/wp-content/img/aircraft/he-111-over-
3.06 Hibbert Gate by 1800, Porter Stephen. (Ed.) 1994. Survey of London.
3.07 Bansky, Wall and Piece
3.08 Brownhill, Sue, Developing London’s Docklands- Another Great Planning
3.09 Street Crime Hotspots, Tower Hamlets, http://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/data/borough-profile/downloads/ward-date-report/ward-date-report-july-06/theme1- living-safely/11-street-crime-hotspots-05-06.pdf. Access: december 2007.
3.10 Street Crime Hotspots, Tower Hamlets, http://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/data/borough-profile/downloads/ward-date-report/ward-date-report-july-06/theme1- living-safely/11-street-crime-hotspots-05-06.pdf. Access: december 2007.
3.11 Hibbert Gate by 1800, Porter Stephen. (Ed.) 1994. Survey of London.
3.12 Hibbert Gate by 1800, Porter Stephen. (Ed.) 1994. Survey of London.
3.13 Hibbert Gate by 1800, Porter Stephen. (Ed.) 1994. Survey of London.
3.14 Jubilee Line extension, http://www.lddc-history.org.uk/transport/2tran11.jpg 3.15 Le Corbusier, Ville Radieuse, http://www.projetosurbanos.com.br/arquivos/
4.01 Possible future Skyline of Canary Wharf, http://www.flickr.com/ photos/27344459@N05/2552179468/
4.02 Aerial view of London, http://www.flickr.com/photos/puurthomas/1016153495/sizes/o/
This book is based on and exists due to urban research studio2007/2008 led by the Chair of Urban Design Prof. Kees Chris-tiaanse. The studio resulted in three books, of which all were in-valuable for this work:
“Isle of Dogs- Hundert Tage Research”
Assistent: Christian Salevski
Students: Silvio Dürring, Rosa Guyer, Pascal Hendrickx, Luis Hilti,
Qiqi Hu, Hannes Schmidt, Tanja S. Schönborn, RogerSidler, Corina Trunz
“Die Themse macht ein U”
Assistent: Alex Lehnerer
Students: Gianni Bonacina, Stephanie Brunner, Patrick Burri,
Jonas Epper, Nadja Heitz, Karin Hildingsson, RuediMittner, Lisa Wiesenthal
“living together apart”
Assistent: Tim Rients
Students: Cheryl Wigger, Pascal Dietschweiler, Léa Mandallaz,
Gauthier Jaulin, Eveline Schenkel, Salome Fravi, StefanLeiseifer, Patrick Schlüter, Michelle Meier
All of these books profited immensly of the regular critics that wereheld in London and Zürich with: Kees Christiaanse, Michel Provost, Mark Braley, and Angelus Eisinger.
Further highly worthwile inspiration and information we recieved from Hugo Hinsley, Professor at the AA in London.
The Authors special thank for the opportunity, provided by the chairof Prof. Kees Christiaanse, to set this project into reality.
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