Crossrail Place Roof Garden, Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf Group has given a new, positive meaning to the traditional rail operator's saying, leaves on the line.

Above the new Crossrail station at Canary Wharf it has created a green retreat that is freely accessible to the public as part of a new leisure and retail complex. Crossrail's trains are not scheduled to run through Canary Wharf's station until 2018, but this roof-top garden opened to queues of visitors on a sunny bank holiday weekend at the start of May.

Crossrail Place’s green space literally lifts visitors out of the hustle and bustle of this busy quarter of London, forming the crowning glory of a seven-storey structure designed by architect Foster + Partners. The 4160m2, high-level park is linear in form, reflecting the station below, and extends some 300m along Canary Wharf’s North Dock. It is partially enclosed by a wrap-around timber lattice roof containing air-filled plastic cushions. A central section of the lattice roof has been left open to allow in daylight and rain for natural irrigation.

The partial canopy structure enclosing the park is designed to help create a localised micro-climate, allowing the use of more tender plant species in a location that is subject to strong wind turbulence, created by the adjacent tall buildings. It also makes the environment more pleasant and comfortable for visitors to enjoy all year round. The park has been designed to accommodate 750 visitors, and also has a performance space at one end.

Lead landscape designer on the project was Gillespies, working with specialist planting consultant Growth Industry. Growth Industry was brought into the project to produce reports on planting concepts, planting character, species selection criteria and commentary on sustainability and climatic aspects. The consultant also produced detailed plant palettes.

The planting in the park references London Docklands’ rich heritage as a supply route for goods transported by sea from all around the world. As Growth Industry puts it, "The planting design concept and palette have been developed in response to a strong cultural and historic narrative, inspired by the discoveries of the great Victorian plant collectors Hooker and Douglas and the incoming exotic species that arrived through the local docks".

The central access ramp leading up to the garden sits almost exactly on the Meridian Line, so occidental and oriental plant species are planted on corresponding sides of the ramp. From the Western hemisphere there are ferns, including New Zealand’s Dicksonia Squarrosa, alongside Arbutus Unedo, the strawberry tree native to the western Mediterranean and Ireland. The East is represented by Japan’s Acer Palmatum and Sasa Veitchii, as well as China’s Phyllostachys Aurea.

Paths snake through the planting, with intermittent bench seating providing resting points for the visiting public.

Key outcomes to date
•    Canary Wharf has more than 100,000 workers and 800,000 visitors every week. For workers and the local community, the garden provides very welcome additional green space. The new park brings the total amount of open space - at ground and roof level - across the Canary Wharf estate to 22 acres. A Canary Wharf Group spokeswoman says, "There is continually demand for new green public spaces across London, and the roof garden at Crossrail Place brings a new calm corner on the thriving Canary Wharf Estate"

•    The 115,000sq ft of leisure and retail space at Crossrail Place is already fully let and the roof garden helps to enhance the commercial offer. The Canary Wharf Group spokeswoman says: "Roof garden space in London is increasingly sought after and we think the new space will provide a really stunning backdrop for some of the dining options that are due to open in Crossrail Place, including The Big Easy"

•    The park’s performance space is already hosting a community festival, called Bloom, with participants including budding local performers. Local charity St Paul’s Arts Trust is organising the festival.

Lesson to date
•    Careful species selection was necessary to overcome the physical constraints of the building - including shallow substrate depth and overhead structures - in order to minimise future maintenance requirements.

     Project team            
Client Canary Wharf Group
Station architect
Foster + Partners
Lead landscape architect Gillespies
Specialist planning consultant
Growth Industry
Infrastructure designer
Tony Meadows Associates
Executive architect
Adamson Associates
Structural engineer
 Arup Engineering
Landscape contractor Blakedown Landscapes

This case study is from Horticulture Week's Landscape4Places campaign hub. Landscape4Places is a new campaign which seeks to highlight the contribution of quality landscaping to great placemaking. For more on the campaign, go to

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