When the docks closed, there was much talk about how the vacated land could be used to help the now employed local population find new work. However, the then Tory Government gave the land to Canary Wharf to build an extension of the City and unaffordable homes. Financial companies were deregulated, and they moved in with joy (and rates holidays), leaving empty office blocks behind them.
Canary Wharf’s office and retail buildings accommodate 100,000 people: had the site been used for social housing, we could have eliminated the Tower Hamlets waiting list. We can only hope the homeless and overcrowded of the borough are consoling themselves with the thought that the Government took the land which could have accommodated them and gave it over to re-housing the finance houses that were to help cause the 2008 global recession.
However, it’s not all gloom and doom. The Canary Wharf Group is an integrated property development, investment and management group of companies, which runs this site and some other major developments, and Canary Wharf has one of the UK’s largest collections of public art. Some of this art is regularly on show to the public – for free.
The latest work to be put on public view is Stripping the Willow, a sculpture by Julian Wild. Canary Wharf advises that Stripping the Willow marks a significant development in Mr Wild’s thinking as a sculptor. “These highly polished bronze and steel pieces,” they say, “portions of a number of which are powder-coated red, are metaphors for new experiences he has seen and absorbed.”
Stripping the Willow was apparently inspired by his new surroundings – he moved out of London and stopped working here and has discovered woodland management from his new surroundings in East Sussex. He was always into lines: first he just had lines; then they got more complex and were sometimes in different colours; and now they are inspired by the “woodsmen’s working processes”. If you’d like to see what this previously public land is now being used for, there’s another month to catch the exhibition.
Stripping the Willow
Lobby, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5AB
29th June-15th August
Monday to Friday 5.30am-midnight
Saturday & Sunday 7am-11.30pm