One Canada Square, 1992

29 August 2011 at 19:52 | Posted in Docklands past, Docklands present, Photos | 2 Comments
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In 1991, One Canada Square in Canary Wharf was completed, the pinnacle of London’s new Docklands, and now a potent symbol of the financial sector, making regular appearances in every news article about the banking crisis, and of course during The Apprentice. It wasn’t always so, though, with its initial completion occurring as Britain struggled with the end of the 1980s boom and slipped into recession, leaving the developers in significant financial difficulty at the time.

One Canada Square – often known simply as Canary Wharf – is 244 metres and 50 stories high, and held the position as the UK’s tallest building until the last year when it was pipped by the Shard at London Bridge. I took the picture on the left in about 1990, shortly after it reached its full height but before the cladding had been completed; the blue colour was a plastic wrap which protected the silver facade during construction and was in the process of being removed at the time of the picture.

The picture on the left, which I took in 1992, shows how isolated the tower was after its completion, with the surrounding skyscrapers put on the back-burner as the developers struggled to create the envisaged financial district which eventually came to pass.

Sadly beyond the basement retail areas, the tower itself if not accessible to the public, but for a brief time in 1992 it was open to visitors during the weekend, until a failed IRA bomb attack put a sudden end to it, and led to the security checks on entry which still keep tabs on movements into the wharf. I loved visiting; you took the lift to the 50th floor, letting your ears pop on the way up, and stepped out onto a huge, empty floor, busy around the windows but otherwise strangely empty. I have some photos I took from up there, nearly 20 years ago now, and when I visited a high floor for a meeting just a few weeks ago, I wish I’d had the temerity to take a camera along to do a before and after of the views!

I took the picture on left from the same spot as the one above, but 13 years later, in 2005 (the drain and the fire hydrant are good location markers!) and the place has changed significantly. The then-new library (sorry, “Ideas Store”) has been built in the foreground and sports the London 2012 bid logo; the lifting bridge has been replaced by a smarter bridge now out of sight; the pair of 200 metre towers for HSBC and Citigroup now frame One Canada Square; the traffic lights are now green (admittedly, that may have been luck) and of course the sun’s come out.

Still, it’s interesting to see how rapidly the view’s changed in little over a decade.

The picture on the left shows the return view from the 50th floor towards Blackwall Basin, and the location of the previous pictures. Somewhere down there on Trafalgar Way is my mate Mark’s mini, which took us to the wharf that day. In the centre of the shot is Blackwall Basin, the area to the left of which has since been developed into housing. To the right is Wood Wharf, which hasn’t changed quite so much, although it will do in the future if the masterplan for this land comes to fruition, with high-rise commercial and residential buildings planned.

The next image looks west, towards Westferry Circus, with Rotherhithe in the distance. The Thames-side site to the right (north) of the Westferry Circus landscaped roundabout has since been developed with a hotel, apartments and assorted restaurants etc. The Limehouse Link tunnel construction site can be seen far right. The site on the left is due to be home to Riverside South, now owned by JP Morgan.

If I knew then that I’d be living in Rotherhithe a few years later I’d have tried to zoom in closer, but sadly I’ve just chopped off my house at the top of the shot!


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  1. I work on the 44th floor, let me know if you want any more recent shots and which direction.

    • Hi Dan, that’s very kind, thank you! The same views as 1992 would be fantastic if at all possible, I can put them side by side. Thanks, Tony

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