Onwards and upwards

Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf_530x355

Canary Wharf
Architect: C. Pelli (1991)
Photographer: R. Elwall (1994)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection

Number One, Canada Place, better known as the Canary Wharf tower, is one of the most recognised buildings in Britain. Designed by Cesar Pelli and completed in 1991, it remains the tallest building in Britain. The centre of a cluster of other towers, it stands as a symbol of the brave new world of the London Docklands.

The building’s design is remarkably simple. Unlike many of the great skyscrapers of New York and Chicago, this tower relies principally on sheer mass and height to impress. Inside and out all is sleek. The flat facades have little detailing, relying instead on the reflective qualities of their cladding to add colour. Only at the corners and near the top is the profile changed. The great pyramid at the top therefore commands all attention.

This photograph, by Robert Elwall, captures the sublime power of the tower. Seen through the glazed dome of the adjacent shopping centre, it seems lost in the clouds. This curved frame makes the tower appear even blunter than usual: this isn’t architecture on a human scale. Appropriately, then, its square bulk seems to stretch up to the heavens.


About the online exhibition

'How We Built Britain' is a major collaboration with the BBC


Images in the exhibition are from RIBApix, a growing database dedicated to providing you with exceptional and unique images from the RIBA British Architectural Library's collections.

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