Strolling through Canary Wharf
Among the many places I like in London, Canary Wharf is one of the most distinctive. Walking through its deserted streets on early evenings is one of the weirdest experiences. Its vast glazed facades reflected in the canals, its eclectic postmodern offices, its low claustrophobic basement malls, frozen in the glossy architectural cliches of the 90s offer a sensation of otherness unlike any other place.
In Canary Wharf there’s something beyond the architecture of questionable taste or its ad-hoc development which ignored the old inhabitants of Isle of Dogs. It is a place of otherness, offering unique varied landscapes and experiences. You can clearly realise there is something dystopian about the contrast between the overcrowding during lunch break and its complete desolation during weekend nights.
However, the most significant aspect for me is its sublime quality. Some of my dearest memories are linked to this place. Shortly after moving to London I had a walk here from Poplar, where I lived in its constant ominous shadow; at that time I couldn’t even afford buying a travelcard and the walks to Canary Wharf took about 30 minutes. After a few months I found a volunteering job in South Quay which gave me a pretext to see the place daily; the DLR journeys, admiring the sunset and canals from the station and from inside the DLR and the strollings during lunch break while listening to Skyrim soundtrack made me experience a strange nostalgia and great hope in the same time.
Later when I started working as a visualiser and my new jobs led me to different places in the city I became even more nostalgic of this place and its peculiar character. It became a symbol of raw sensory experience, somewhere I could forget about any type of human convention – about architectural standards, about sanctimonious socialists deriding ‘yuppies’, about political fixations on equity, about heritage, capitalism and its critics – about any conceivable kind of abstraction.
Canary Wharf seems to lack both history and future, it’s frozen in time; you can easily picture it ruinous and deserted, with no sign of human contamination. You realise it’s not successful by many people’s standards, and this makes it even more intriguing. It makes you focus on its intrinsic qualities; the crushing scale and vastness of the buildings; the physical quality of its materials; the way in which sun is reflected in the glazed facades around sunset; the way in which the many artificial lights blend with reflections of the evening sky; the vast perspectives towards London Bridge, contrasting with the local landscape; the intoxicating self-similarity of its surfaces reflected in the ever changing waves of the canal. I would often find myself contemplating those waves for their intriguing qualities. I would try to glimpse the effect of atmospheric depth on foggy or rainy days. I would stand amazed by the variety of contrasting landscapes. The distinction between anthropic and natural, between technological and natural sublime would no longer be relevant. One must never let go of this raw experience – the unfiltered perception. While living it, ignoring all critiques becomes a sacred obligation.