Gillespies-designed Canary Wharf Crossrail sky garden nearly complete

Public roof garden designed by landscape architect Gillespies is being built on top of Crossrail station at Canary Wharf.

Sky garden: timber roof design by Foster + Partners features special pillows to help airflow reach plants - image: Foster + Partners
Sky garden: timber roof design by Foster + Partners features special pillows to help airflow reach plants - image: Foster + Partners

Work on London's next big sky garden to be opened - following the "Walkie Talkie" scheme at 20 Fenchurch Street - is due to be completed within weeks.

Gillespies, which designed the sloping garden 37 floors up on 20 Fenchurch Street, is working with Tony Meadows Associates, Adamson Associates, Growth Industry, Arup Engineering and Foster + Partners on the new public roof garden park to grow under a semi-open-air timber lattice roof above the Canary Wharf Crossrail station.

This will be part of a commercial development made possible by Crossrail's plans to submerge the new station at the bottom of the 200-year-old West India Import Dock. Blakedown Landscapes is the contractor on the project.

The garden, on what Crossrail calls the park level, is two storeys above the dock water level. Its unique timber roof design by Foster + Partners spans 310m along its length and features 780 ETFE pillows continually filled with air. This allows airflow and natural irrigation to reach the roof garden plants, working in tandem with the landscaped area.

A variety of exotics have been selected by landscape architect Gillespies as a nod to the heritage of the docklands, where plant collectors bought exotic plants from new continents into the UK for the first time.

A spokesman for Canary Wharf Group said: "The aim of the garden is the creation of an appealing, legible and well-managed publicly accessible space that will complement the existing open space provision within the vicinity of Poplar and Canary Wharf."

Gillespies' design also features a sunken garden at dock level within a flood storage attenuation system, adjacent to the dockside promenade. A series of stepped terraces contain shallow pools of water that tip over the front edge of each terrace in a feature that will provide new habitats for wildlife.

Water will be directed from either end of the sunken garden through a series of weirs set in 200mm-high terraces, which are offset and staggered to encourage water circulation.

Each of the terraces will contain three ponds of varying depths and soil material to support different types of reed planting and some open water and pebble surface where the shallow pools of water will cascade from the terrace above.

Statement roof gardens - a tool for developers to secure approval

Canary Wharf Group began work on the Crossrail station in May 2009. Above the station it is developing 115,000sq ft of retail and leisure space on five storeys. It will be three years before the station is open.

John Melmoe, commercial director at Willerby Landscapes, which made Gillespies' vision a reality at 20 Fenchurch Street, said there are several more statement roof gardens planned in the City of London.

He added: "I think there will be a lot more schemes because it gives developers planning permission. I know of seven other schemes. There's pressure on horizontal spaces in the City. I think it's inevitable."

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