Last week Ana and I decided plan our editorial calendar for the next couple of months. One of the first entries on the list was an interview with Iuliana from the Face Gym – which will come online on Friday. The question was where? When we found out that the easiest place for Iuliana to meet would be at a café in Canary Wharf I got really excited, because for quite some time I have wanted to do a photo shoot there but somehow there never seemed a good time to do it.
I absolutely love this part of the city, it’s one of my favourite places in London. What I love so much is the combination of utilitarian architecture with cleverness and beauty!
I fell for it on my first visit there when Patrick wanted me to help him with some grocery shopping in the underground shopping centre in Canary Wharf – a long, long time ago. I was rather new in London then and had somehow never come across this iconic part of the UK’s capital. I knew nothing about it. So I threw a childish tantrum about not wanting to waste my Sunday in a shopping mall, when instead I could just go to any local shops and be done in 20 minutes. In the end I went – I don’t remember what argument he used or if he had to bribe me, but he won.
I remember that I was grumpy throughout the whole journey – playing the difficult princess until the door of the tube finally opened at Canary Wharf underground station. I stepped out the train and at first my bad mood got even worse – instead of the shiny shopping mall I was expecting, I found myself surrounded by a massive, dark cave of raw concrete! I took a few steps and then I was speechless. We went up the one of “hanging in the air” impossibly stretched escalators and then “there was light”! James S Russell once said that : “Stepping into Canary Wharf is an almost religious experience…” – summarising my first experience perfectly. About half way to the top above my head spanned a huge glass canopy opening onto a marvellous view of glass and steel towers surrounding the main square. While still on the escalator I already knew I would love this place!
I’m not an art or architecture critic, but one has to be blind not to notice the magnificent beauty of this place. It was designed by one of the most famous architects in the world, Sir Norman Foster, and built in 1999. On arrival you are met by a huge 30 metres tall cavern with a wavy roof, supported by massive oblong columns of raw concrete. This space reminds me of a Roman basilica or Egyptian temple. The raw stone columns and grey concrete walls give a sense of solidity to this graceful massive space, grounding what would otherwise be a fragile looking construction of soaring roof and egg shaped, delicate glass domes. The three glass entrance canopies are the main source of light for the 300 metre long station and the only elements visible above the ground. They surround the beautiful landscaped winter park, built on the roof of the station creating Canary Wharf’s main reception area.
The harsh aesthetic and lack of adornment only emphasise the great craftsmanship. The place is far from boring: every corner, every aspect, wherever you turn your eyes there are weird angles, strange shapes of bent metal stone and glass; the light and shadow create artificial spaces which are not there! The glass and stainless steal elevators, ”… and a great parade of escalators appear to reach the sky. It’s like a cross between Canterbury cathedral and the set of Aliens.”
This is one of my two (the other being Westminster) favourite tube stations in London – probably in the world.