Following the success of the Sky Garden, located in the heart of the City of London, another banking district in the English capital opened its gates – the Crossrail Place Roof Garden. However, this place lacks creativity, authenticity and peace. As with most parts of Canary Wharf, it seems as it has been applied onto the basis (read the cold stone multi-storey buildings) without any consideration of the local surroundings. The Roof Garden is green, spacious, and airy. The only problem is that there is nobody to appreciate it. The inhabitants of Canary Wharf want something different, instead of health, they seek wealth.
As a part of my study, I decided to examine this area of east London from a perspective of ownership, population, familiarity, and the overall feeling this place embodies. I discovered that not only is Canary Wharf owned by a foreign investor (Qatari and Canadian Songbird Estates) but also it lacks any sense of community and belonging. The dominant ownership is reflected through local urban planning with mostly office spaces outweighing the private homes, and the grey colour dominating all buildings. The large glass surfaces are overruling any sense of intimacy and the open spaces are urging people to see and to be seen. It could be believed that the permanent surveillance encourages individuals to perform their best. But is that so?
Not only do workers have no privacy, but they are also forced to fit in, be the same, act the same way, behave like one. From the dress code to the walking speed, all people here look and behave the same way. Bankers. Money makers. Fortune machines. The only divergence is an odd tourist and the always present security guards. These guys make sure that the major banking district of London is always safe and secure. Surveillance forces people to do their best, but being the best version of themselves is not what they really are. Acting is fake and fake is bad. Therefore, the people inhabiting Canary Wharf, even if only between 9-5 every working day, are actors. Actors with no paper to proof their acting skills, yet with many qualifications to present at a job interview. These are the people who have previously worked and studied hard to obtain a position at one of these monochromic tables.
Knowing what the daily office life is like, I couldn’t help but wonder. Why is it that these office workers are not trying to escape? A small version of the Garden of Eden is created a footstep away, yet nobody walks the extra mile to get there. This place has no traffic, from very few cars in the streets to almost nobody in the Roof Garden. Although everything here screams perfection, from the cleaned footpaths to zero street beggars, there is one thing missing. A soul. This place is soulless, emotionless, and has no story. The harsh reality screams out privilege. There is no question about that. Canary Wharf is lovely but exclusive. Unless you are the clown as everybody else, you do not belong here. Leave, and forget about visiting the garden, too. Outsiders are not welcome. Different is bad. Stay uniform.
Visit the Roof Garden every working day before the sunset, and see what’s on here.
Harvey, D. (2014) Rebel cities, Verso.
Williams, D. (2013) The Anxious City, Routledge