Wood Wharf, London, UK

Location: London, UK
Client: Wood Wharf Limited Partnership (Canary Wharf Group, British Waterways, Ballymore Properties)
Architect: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
Size: 7 hectares
Status: Completed 2007

Martha Schwartz Partners is currently creating a master plan and landscape design for a new major mixed use scheme to complement the adjoining Canary Wharf estate. Canary Wharf has been lauded for the high quality of the landscape treatment. Wood Wharf will build on this legacy, and using the best materials, promises to be a long-lasting design solution. The keys to success are edge treatments which draw people close to the water and integrate multiple programs within the Master Plan. Wood Wharf is the largest mixed use scheme in London to incorporate such a high density of uses.

The landscape at Wood Wharf may be thought of as two zones – an active zone through the centre and the south of the site which contains intimate landscape ‘pockets’; and a passive zone to the north and the east with smaller nodes of activity. A landscape which follows the building grid has limited scope and inevitably ends up as a series of rectilinear spaces. A continuous curving line can unite buildings on the grid and convey a sense of space and direction. It provides a powerful and evocative counterpoint to the grid and in this way, even when at its most delicate, can challenge the power of the tall buildings.

Wrapping the buildings and wharf edges creates new spaces along the South Esplanade. These spaces are not arbitrary – they are determined by the response of the wrapping to environmental factors, population pressure, and site constraints. Taking advantage of the south facing waterfront, a fluid timber boardwalk snakes around the buildings, linking them to the water’s edge, and invites people out into the fresh air and the dockside. The wrapped edge provides a grand timber promenade – it links all the waterside spaces with the central spaces and is the expression of a continuous public space: all areas of the wrapped edge are to be open to the public.

There are three major elements driving the landscape master plan – pressure of numbers will be intense in the morning, evening and at lunchtimes, hence the need for quality passive space adjacent to busy movement corridors. The new landscape must also be socially responsive and socially sustainable, meeting the needs of all its users for decades to come and reconciling the residential community with its commercial neighbours.