Work Life – Getting the balance right

The next time you check your emails, read a tweet, or sit through that Monday-morning planning meeting at work, consider this: through the course of a single day, you devour more information than a man in the Middle Ages would have consumed across his entire lifetime. This is not fake news; this is cold, hard science. In 2011, researchers at the University of Southern California found that the average human mind processes 175 newspapers-worth of information every single day. In 1986, that figure was 40. Today, it is certainly more… and that’s before you even shut down your computer.

The modern workplace has become a phantasmagoria of facts, figures, demands and deadlines, all shooting around our neural pathways like rush-hour traffic on the M25. It is constantly evolving. Uninterrupted access to email means work never stops; we have an app for everything from banking to newspapers, to-do lists to dating. All day, we are pushed and pulled from place to place – a presentation here, a coffee catch-up there, a brainstorm in the breakout room. Then there are the hundreds of decisions we make every day, from how to reply to an email to which sandwich to buy at lunch. To put it another way, the human brain has never been so busy.

But what if we told you that a workplace revolution is sweeping quietly across London?

This isn’t the blue-sky fantasy of a Silicon-Valley billionaire. It’s happening now. And, according to scientists, the benefits are unignorable, for staff and for business. “The single greatest advantage in the modern economy is a happy and engaged workforce,” Shawn Achor – happiness guru and author of international bestsellers The Happiness Advantage and Big Potential – wrote in 2011. “A decade of research proves that happiness raises nearly every business and educational outcome: raising sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and accuracy on tasks by 19%, as well as a myriad of health and quality of life improvements.”

His claims are backed – if a little more modestly – by research from the University of Warwick, who found that happy employees are 12% more productive than unhappy ones. “The driving force seems to be that happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which they can work without sacrificing quality,” said one of the report’s authors, Dr. Daniel Sgroi. So, how can an office make you happy? There are many environmental factors that affect how we feel about the place we work. Things like lighting, noise, air quality and office layout. Cultural factors play a big part, too, and they’re often mashed into our physical surroundings. An office that provides a thoughtfully-designed breakout room or a charming café, for instance, is likely to foster a collaborative culture (good for business!) where staff feel valued as human beings (good for staff!).

Then there is the way we pass through our places of work. Open stairwells, glass walls or open-plans can turn an office from a space of shadows and solitude to one of chance interactions and ideas. “It’s that quick chat we have with a colleague on the way up to the office that might just be the most valuable part of our day,” explains acclaimed architect Fred Pilbrow, whose latest project, The Market Building, sits at the heart of Wood Wharf.

It’s not just the office space that experts say should soothe our souls for a happy work/life balance. Many of London’s newest workspaces are being built on or near an array of amenities.

Food markets are one, offering workers the chance to ditch the meal deal “desk-lunch” for a bounty of sweet and savoury and everything else in between. Also, they are a place to take a break from the office, meet friends or colleagues or simply repair to the open air for a midmorning stroll.

Talking of strolls, with around eight million trees in 3,000 parks, three million gardens and two National Nature Reserves, London is one of the most verdant cities on earth. Overall, 47% of London is green space, and 60% is classified as open space. This pays off: scientists have long proved that nature can provide stress relief, increase social interaction, encourage physical exercise and even help soothe mental illness. Then there’s the water. A canal, a pond, even a fountain – it doesn’t matter. The faintest tinkle of water can cheer you That’s according to the UK’s Blue Gym project that found people who live or work in sight of water are calmer, happier and healthier.

There is, of course, one core element without which any of this works: to achieve a true work/life balance, you have to have a life. Shops, bars and restaurants within walking distance of the office are becoming a staple of the modern office set up. “Socialising with your co-workers is essential for your career,” Alexander Kjerulf, another happiness guru and bestselling author, told Forbes Magazine in 2013. “If you’re not able to relate to your co-workers as human beings and build positive relationships, your career will suffer. Socialising and getting to know them as people will help you to communicate better, trust each other more and work better together.”

All this, he notes, points to one simple fact: good workplace relationships are one of the most important sources of workplace happiness. And while those may be initiated beside water coolers or exiting end-of-quarter meetings, they are nourished over drinks and food, walks along the riverfront or a mooch around the shops. They foster empathy, group worth, collaboration.

So productivity at its best is not about working longer hours, sacrificing lunch breaks, or checking emails on iPhones over dinner or in bed. It is about cutting through the clutter, being smarter with our time, and happier with our lives. Places like Wood Wharf and others sprouting around the capital beg the question: why design a place where people have to work, when you can design one where people want to work?


Interview by Matt Blake


Affordable Luxury

Ben Russell, Chief Development Officer of Ennismorediscusses their vision to challenge the budget hotel industry and why Wood Wharf is the perfect location to do it.

The words affordable and luxury are uttered so frequently these days, it’s difficult to imagine a time when the two would have been seen as mutually exclusive. Businesses across several sectors are embracing the notion, promising aspirational experiences at pragmatic price points. Ennismore, the company behind The Hoxton Hotel and Gleneagles, is reimagining the budget hotel concept with a new offering: NoCo, set to launch at Wood Wharf.

Ben Russell, Ennismore’s Chief Development Officer, explains that the location in an area ready for a revival matches the company’s footprint with The Hoxton.

“We love to be part of the regeneration of an area, just like when we opened the Hoxton in Shoreditch while it was undergoing its transformation. We want to be ingrained in the fabric. That’s why Wood Wharf is a perfect platform for us to launch.”

With NoCo, Ennismore will take all of its successes with The Hoxton and create a similar proposition, but with a greater affordability, catering to creative, progressive and innovative businesses at a younger point in their mindset. The hotel will serve the neighbourhood through its public spaces and cultural programme.

NoCo will also experiment with a new concept in the UK, sharing a central space with third party operators which include a co-work office and gym. The idea is to create seamless multi-purpose spaces that enhance each, individually and as a whole, for workers, residents and guests at Wood Wharf.

Besides a beautiful lobby and great WiFi, NoCo will establish partnerships across the estate, including retail outlets. While hotel lobbies have become more like remote work spaces, the intention, Russell says, is for laptops to shut come 6pm transforming the environment into something more social.

NoCo intends to disrupt the budget hotel model, delivering good design, and quality essentials. Russell believes blending aesthetics with tech is the best way to meet consumer demand for form and function.

“NoCo is going to be stripped back. We’re just providing the beautiful essentials; nothing travellers don’t need. But we’re appealing to those who want more than just a generic experience. Rich fabrics and great lighting can create a beautiful product. State-of-the-art technology that’s app-driven can deliver a seamless guest journey from booking to check-in.”

The emphasis on everything you need, nothing you don’t, doesn’t mean NoCo will scrimp on the basics. Russell explains rooms will be furnished with high quality beds, but no TV’s on the walls. One consideration is an in-room projector for guests to connect devices. Rather than room service, an app will allow guests to pre-order meals at an on-site restaurant.

Unlike competitors hoping to exclusively cultivate well travelled millennials as clientele, Russell says NoCo is targeting a wider demographic. “We think a great experience shouldn’t be limited or exclusive. Good ideas should be broad, not select.”

Russell has big dreams for NoCo. He envisions NoCo not only at Wood Wharf but in other cities, with hopes of disrupting a market saturated
with blandness.

“We don’t understand why this can’t be applied across every aspect of the hospitality sector. We want to be more than just a bed. We want to challenge this.”

NoCo have leased
7 floors of 15 Water
Street, designed by
Allies and Morrison.


Interview by Amy Guttman
Twitter @AmyGuttman1

Re-inventing the Docklands

Allies and Morrison discuss the challenges of re-working an industrial past for the tenants of the future.

Architect Jason Syrett of Allies and Morrison, the same practice tasked with the Wood Wharf masterplan, took cues from the site’s history as a thriving, working dock to inspire his vision for 
15 and 20 Water Street. The two buildings are, in many ways important within the masterplan, as they announce the intention and set the scene for the 
Wood Wharf community. Syrett describes the two buildings as gatehouses as they’re the first two buildings perceived when crossing the bridge from Canary Wharf. With that in mind, Allies and Morrison used materials to reflect the shift in character and feeling, while also connecting past with present.

“This was once a bustling dockside community with people loading and off loading onto ships and railways. The modern working environment has moved away from that industrial scale to a new industry where technological skills and creative design, engineering and even creative financial services are the new engines of London.”

In order to achieve the transition, these new buildings employ brick and masonry materials, as well as colour. The silver and grey of Canary Wharf is traded for palette-warming red brick and warehouse-like spaces with a slightly industrial feel which are designed to attract a mixed community of businesses integrated with residential and retail space.

On a practical basis, that translates to smaller floor plates with a flexible open plan environment to accommodate smaller scaling businesses that may take only one floor or part of one floor, rather than big trading floors and multi level offices.

“20 Water Street is designed for denser occupation than the traditional Canary Wharf office towers, with more ventilation, data, and power. 
It really represents the way people 
work nowadays.”

But, that intensity demands balance, which is why the team at Allies and Morrison has used balconies and roof gardens on each of the buildings to provide breakout and connect the buildings at many levels to outside spaces. With shops at the ground floor, balconies and roof terraces, Allies and Morrison’s goal was to unite the office space with the wider environment. The development’s engagement with the waterscape keeps the surroundings and the history of Wood Wharf relevant.

“Across the masterplan, we worked to keep people engaged with the water edge, rather than raised above it, to connect them with the docks.

Allowing the buildings to face the water, building them with materials that feel significant and providing for houseboat moorings are all things that enhance rather than take away from the waterscape. The other thing is the way in which we name and brand the place, the parks, the streets to connect the history. These things help evoke memories.”

While Syrett’s design respects the past, his approach focuses on flexibility for a series of future scenarios, making use of interchangeable core components, such as toilets that can be added or removed, as well as flexible structure and services that allow the occupiers to create larger or smaller spaces and allowing for mixed use buildings or potential conversions of office space into hotel or even residential use.

“Whether everyone will be working on their laptops, tablets, or VR devices in cafés in the future, we don’t know, but we’re trying to evolve a piece of city for them to come together. 15 Water Street is a really good example of that synergy – the hotel, health club, and the co-work space. Hotels and offices sharing the same lobby is very unusual, but many hotel lobbies feel like co-work spaces or offices and vice versa. So we have tried to future proof the buildings by allowing for flexibility in the way spaces are used.”

For Syrett, the best way to honour and preserve history is through people, blending the edges of Canary Wharf into the remaining community of those who used to live and work on the island.

“If you talk to people in the area, many of their family histories go back to working on the docks. We can communicate that through artwork and street names and integrating affordable housing. We can create a place that links the past to the present and shapes a future that’s inclusive with things like small businesses run by local people, say, a bagel shop or coffee house to serve startups. Invite them in with affordable rents and support the little guys to help feed the big guys.”


Interview by Amy Guttman
Twitter @AmyGuttman1

Scaling Up


London is the home of scaleups. Business creation is essential for building an ambitious and innovative economy, but this is just one piece of the picture. I have been campaigning for London to widen its gaze and focus on ‘scaleups’, in order to secure significant growth in jobs, taxes and wealth, and the competitive advantage of Britain for generations to come.

By turning our attention to company growth, we can spotlight the actions, as a society, needed to make London the best ‘Scaleup City’ in the world. There are enormous benefits to be realised by increasing the proportion of scaleup companies across the business landscape, these determined entrepreneurs sponsor economic prosperity and boost productivity throughout the capital and across Britain.

We have identified a huge opportunity to be taken: a one per cent boost to our scaleup population would bring about an additional 238,000 jobs and £225bn in Gross Value Added (GVA).

Wood Wharf will become the largest home to scaleups in the city – a new piece of London that will house at least 200 scaleups.

I firmly believe that the key to economic growth is the ability for scaleups to develop locally, with data providing critical evidence for identifying and verifying fast growing companies and helping to facilitate further expansion of their innovative businesses.

The need for the whole ecosystem of stakeholders to collaborate to improve their local environments so that a greater proportion of companies make the leap from ‘small to large’ is essential. The responsibility to become a ‘Scaleup Nation’ rests with all of us.

There can be no doubt that London has the talent, capital and infrastructure to foster the next generation of fast growth businesses. The priority must now be, to take on the challenges that startups face in making the next big leap forwards. London is the destination for scaleups, that message has to be made loud and clear, it is vital that we dedicate the resources to transforming the earliest stage ventures to the UK’s biggest businesses.

It could not be clearer that we cannot rest on our laurels. Many countries and regions globally have already turned their attention to scaleups as a means of economic growth. If the UK does not align priorities effectively to the fastest growing businesses, we run the risk of falling behind.

The ScaleUp Institute’s 2017 survey showed that while scaleup business leaders remain upbeat about their growth and export plans, they felt that the UK would become a harder place in which to grow a business. We cannot allow this to happen. We must act now to achieve long- term, sustainable results.

Competitive advantage doesn’t go to the nations that focus on creating companies, it goes to nations that focus on scaling companies.

Sherry Coutu CBE is a
serial entrepreneur and
angel investor who chairs
The ScaleUp Institute along with sitting on the boards
of companies, charities
and universities.

Children of the City

Open City and Allford Hall Monaghan Morris come together to encourage young minds to explore the needs of their local community.

Children are fascinated by the outdoor environment. Yet many children living in built up centres do not have gardens or any direct access to outdoor spaces. Open City asked children from Manorfield Primary school in Tower Hamlets to reimagine and realise a pocket of their neighbourhood where people can meet, learn, socialise, communicate and relax.

The children explored the area, drawing maps of existing features such as mounds, trees, pathways and surrounding buildings.  They then adapted their initial sketches, developing their designs for their new and imagined space.

They wanted to ensure that there were sensory areas for the elderly where plants of various kinds stimulated the senses, however their plans were mainly dominated with a need to create an exciting play space which children of all ages could come together and explore.

As the theme of the project was sustainability, only recycled and reused items were used to construct the models. Children were split into small groups of three where they had to interpret the design and decide as a group on the appropriate materials to use for their models construction.

All of the shared models were brought together into one classroom where the children helped to create a large scale ‘Shared City’. This allowed the children opportunity to admire and study one another’s work and, also see what their shared city environment looked like on a large scale.




Ewan Jones and Chris Patience of global architecture practice Grimshaw have been tasked with transforming One Brannan Street, the only triangular site at Wood Wharf, into a dynamic space for offices and retail. The team have utilised the wide-spanning views as a not-so-secret weapon.

How challenging is it to design for a triangular shape?

All the conventional bits of a building are rectangular, so the challenge was how to be efficient in our design without any bits left over. The practical things were challenging; there were about 100 core layout iterations. You have to think about every level at once. It also wasn’t an equilateral triangle. That means the balconies in each corner are slightly different, but that ultimately adds to the character. And, the location benefits greatly from its position at the edge of the Blackwall Basin, resulting in a spectacular triangle that makes the site very special.

What did you hope to achieve with One Brannan Street?

Part of our goal was to make sure the building is visible from multiple viewpoints. The corners of the building were therefore designed to act as striking visual markers that respond to sight-lines through the masterplan. Corners become less useful as office space as they get narrower so we’ve exploited those spaces to be social or meeting places on almost every floor in the form of balconies and winter gardens. There is also a series of roof terraces accessible to tenants.

With this building, it’s less of a single statement we’re trying to make, and more about offering glimpses from different vantage points. The projecting winter gardens and balconies are designed to draw pedestrians towards the building, and onto the waterfront and retail area under Carter Circle.

How did you maximise the landscape?

There’s a change in level around the site, which means we’ve essentially got two ground floor levels. It forced us to think about how to make the best use of that. We turned things around to serve dual purposes. We moved the loading bay to the other side of the building where there’s better access to a road in a place with less foot traffic. More importantly, relocating the loading bay preserves the area around the edges of the basin as retail and café spaces, strengthening
the connection between pedestrians
and the water.

One Brannan Street is one of few places in the development with such a wide-reaching view. We’ve taken advantage of this by designing large, open plan spaces with a picture window looking out over the basin.

How have you maintained the history while forging a sense of identity for the building?

We use the essential components of a building to create its character. For One Brannan Street, the triangle theme is very strong; the building footprint, winter gardens and other elements share the triangular motif.

The forms of the winter gardens are also consistent with the historic cranes of Wood Wharf, enhancing the identity of the dockside by creating a visual memory of the activities that once took place there.

We’ve tested the building with an exposed ceiling, which provides better sense of volume and more of a warehouse feel, reminiscent to the historic wharves and industry of the area.

It was important to us to ensure the basin was visible, so everyone who enters the building sees a view of the water to keep people connected to it.


Interview by Amy Guttman
Twitter @AmyGuttman1

Kick start your day the Wood Wharf way



1 large ripe avocado

1 kiwi fruit

1 small banana

20g fresh spinach leaves

300ml soya milk

2 tsp honey

1 lime



  1. Cut the avocado in half – remove the stone and scoop
    out the flesh
  2. Peel and chop the kiwi
    and banana
  3. Put all the fruit into a liquidiser along with the honey, soya milk, spinach leaves and lime juice
  4. Blend until smooth and serve



Masters of retail space

It may seem ironic to select someone that loathes shopping to design a retail masterplan, but Glenn Howells, of the eponymously named architecture firm, says it led to a more thoughtful approach to the mechanics, both overt and subtle, of attracting shoppers and non-shoppers, alike.

What inspired the layout of the retail masterplan?

In order to make it more interesting and varied, we wanted to focus on more independent offerings. Independents, by nature, need smaller spaces, so we looked at making the masterplan more granular, which meant making the streets smaller, too. Instead of wide boulevards, like Oxford Street, it’s more like Carnaby Street, or Seven Dials. We’ve reduced the scale of the place making streets more narrow and intimate.

How have you made the area visually compelling?

We’ve planned a richer market-style atmosphere to contrast with the office space. There’s something about smaller scale places that means you can be a bit more imaginative and experimental, building a sense of wonder and discovery. Personally, I tend to gravitate towards areas with markets or interesting ranges. I tend not to go to the 5th Avenues of the world, so I tried to apply ways that I would find a shopping area appealing.

Take us behind the scenes to understand what goes into the actual design process.

It’s working closely with the wider team, including commercial advisors in retail, who’ve got an idea of which occupiers could be tempted to be tenants. It’s really important to test the light to differentiate which areas people will move through and which are dwell spaces, which are typically resting spaces where people will rush to get a seat and want to hang out and that’s usually timed with afternoon and early evening sunshine. That’s where you place the bars and restaurants, benches and play tables.

We use devices, such as low level planting which provide a bit of separation between people sitting trying to have a meal and the walkway. That’s how we create shelter and defensible space. There’s quite a fine-grained level of design which isn’t about buildings at all, but about things like street surfaces – which surfacing is most comfortable to walk on, and street furniture and signage, the way you allow retailers to brand. A lot of thought goes into the height of the shop fronts, like how big the signs should be so that you can see them from a certain distance.

What have you employed to promote a sense of community within retail?

Retail doesn’t work as well if you’ve got an endless strip of shop fronts. So what we sought to do is ensure it’s never very long before you have to make turns. Those bends in the road serve two purposes: they create an element of surprise and also stop the experience being exhausting with too much to take in. There will be benches and café’s strategically placed to allow for shopping breaks. Encouraging people to linger makes it less about transactions, where people buy what they need and leave, and more about community.

Keeping the retail at ground level also sets the foundation for an active, engaged atmosphere. The estate feels livelier if workers and residents can see a bustling environment out of their windows.

Retail has to be stimulating and rewarding. The way you achieve that is through a rich mix of restaurants, bars, showrooms, even performance space and a programme of changing things to make it a place where people want to keep coming back. Some retail will work, some won’t. Some shops will need investment through incentives like rent-free periods, but they contribute a sense of place and through that sense of place, you create community.

Interview by Amy Guttman
Twitter @AmyGuttman1

When size matters : How small buildings shape our cities for good

Simon Allford, co-founder and director of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, discusses the buildings of the future.

There is an office building in Florence that 700 years after opening still serves as inspiration for what a building can do for a city. Originally conceived as home to the Medici Court, it was the place where the prominent family lived, worked and ruled.

Standing just thirty metres high, its profile far outgrew its physical size and it became a modern precursor of a low-rise building that packs a punch – as well as an emblematic image of what Florence stood for in the minds of millions.

It served a number of purposes: living quarters, a centre of administration, ceremonial palace and world-famous museum and much more over its impressive lifespan. Not just an example of how Renaissance builders created multi-purpose spaces, but also an effective rebuttal to the argument that building high is the only way to attain density and legacy in a crowded urban space.

Buildings have an inherent influence over the way people live and work in a city. In the world’s biggest cities – London among them – buildings are increasingly looked to as the way to deliver commercial growth and attract the very best people. Interestingly, low-rise buildings are fast becoming the way to do both.


Low Rise, High Ambition

Buildings must serve those who use them. Every commercial one needs to offer people more than just being trapped at a desk for the nine-to-five routine. Instead, they should inspire creativity and teamwork in the workplace. Every residential one should be built in ways that encourage mixed communities and are environmentally friendly.

Buildings – small and large – create and contribute to communities by having a sense of openness and connection with the neighbourhood. An attractive way to achieve that is by having mixed-use and low-rise buildings that facilitate chance encounters between the buildings’ users and visitors, and shared communal
facilities like restaurants, bars, gardens and crèches.

Teams working in a low-rise are much more likely to interact with the outside world during the day, encouraging them to get fresh air, break out of the corporate bubble and feel like they’re are part of the social fabric that exists outside their office door.

Meanwhile, for residential buildings, the zeitgeist continues to move away from high-rise buildings as study after study proves the benefits of multi-use and low-rise buildings. These include: less financial risk for the client, greater use of the building over a day, week, season and year. And they tend to reject monocultures, creating the conditions for a diverse community, mirroring the makeup of any good, modern city.


Precedents and Places

This is a delicate moment in time for the future of London’s residential and commercial spaces. A juncture that is not helped by the polarising opinions of policy makers and pressure groups alike, who tend to sit on one end or the other of the spectrum when it comes to the high versus low-rise debate.

The key is to understand London’s big enough for both. There is a balance waiting to be struck where high-rise buildings can intermingle with low-rise; multi-purpose spaces can fit in nicely next to strictly commercial spaces – all in the name of securing a bright future for all Londoners.

Thankfully, there is a precedent for the UK keeping a steady head on the matter of changing how we interact with residential and commercial spaces to suit our needs.

I think of Britain’s 19th century industrial leaders lounging at White’s Club discussing business strategies over libations and how it bears a resemblance to present day co-working spaces, furnished with ping pong tables and open bars where conversations really get going.


Make an Impression

There are, naturally, challenges that arise with both. In a small building the challenge is to ensure that the connecting circulation spaces are large enough to encourage connections and conversations and not too large to overwhelm them. Whereas in a tall building the challenge is to resist Louis Sullivan’s description of a skyscraper as just “a whole lot of floors”, something that can be avoided by easily connected clusters all the way up the building.

While each building is unique, other points to consider include: generosity of space, volume, and addressing the needs of the particular city. There is also the opportunity to innovate: think about the use of shadow and depth. Consider using an exoskeleton to pique interest. On the interior, push for an engaging promenade, an entrance that is inviting and inspiring – not just a way to get to the lift. At every stage, question whether the building is fit to become a living, working piece of the city.


Plan and Perform

Without problems there would be no great design, goes the adage. And when building in a city with the density of London, there is no shortage of problems and the creative solutions that they bring to life. The more attention paid to design means fewer mistakes will be made: after all, it’s wrong to assume a building can be too small to work out, and too big not to.

In highly urbanised areas, planning is rightly complicated and if low-rise buildings continue to receive more attention and profile then London will be moving in the right direction. This should not come at the expense of very tall residential and commercial buildings, but rather be delivered in tandem with them.

That’s how London’s architects, developers and buildings can shape the city for good.

How do you design spaces for companies that don’t exist yet?

Gone are the days when workplaces could go unchanged and expect to serve whomever worked in them. Instead they must be designed with liquid workforces in mind – they need to be able to move with them, change with them and develop alongside them.

The future of dynamic organisations and shared facilities means both flexibility and affordability for companies, something not offered at the same scale in traditional set-ups. Remove the physical divisions and you encourage the sharing of best practice, ideas and even camaraderie between colleagues and people who work at different organisations.

What surrounds us shapes and influences what we do and how well we do it. We need to create spaces that can evolve alongside businesses – places that connect and inspire people and are capable of keeping up with rapid change – only then we will create spaces fit for organisations of tomorrow, whatever they
may look like.

Jacqueline de Rojas
is President of techUK,
the trade association of tech companies in the UK.



The building in public

Fred Pilbrow, senior founding partner of  Pilbrow & Partners discusses his approach to designing a building as an extension of the public realm.

You might think this ironic, but our main inspiration for The Market Building was a 160-year old cartoon. Sketched by the famous artist George Cruikshank in 1860, it is called the British Bee Hive – an illustration of British society through a vast range of professions depicted as cells in a giant bee hive. In the 19th century the bee was a popular symbol of industry and co-operation. And that’s exactly what we wanted The Market Building to be – a hive of activity where people of many different backgrounds and jobs live and work alongside each other. Only, this bee hive will befit the 21st century.

The building itself, is like a casket. It has a very simple, flexible framework within which all manner of activities, like bees in a hive, are planned. And by keeping the casket very simple and flexible, it can accommodate a wide range of different uses, whether it’s office space, retail, a health club, or even a hotel.

But what excited us most about this building, is the sense of its engagement with Union Square. That is to say, when it came to brainstorming ideas for a building as an extension of the public realm, a market hall felt like the archetypal public space.

So we’ve put a very generous, flexible, grand retail area at the base of the building, which could be used for a food market with cafés and restaurants interspersed with market style stalls such as butchers or cheese and wine stalls.

But what’s most exciting about this market space, is that it starts in this magnificent double-storey galleria beneath The Market Building, before unfurling seamlessly outside into Union Square. It’s as if the market has been invited inside. So that hive of activity is the first thing you see as you walk towards the building. And that, I hope, will inspire people to join in, to be a part of the Wood Wharf scene.

That is the focal point. But its devotion to the public realm by no means ends there. As well as having great public space at the bottom, we are creating one at the top in the form of a two-storey rooftop restaurant, fringed by a broad terrace and protected by an oversailing roof. That roof has the impression of a lantern that I think will make it highly visible from afar. We thought it would be nice that the thing you see on Wood Wharf’s skyline is activity. You can actually go there, have a glass of wine, a meal, a meeting, or just take in the view. Isn’t that better than some shapely roof that’s no more than just a corporate hairstyle?

Of all the buildings I’ve designed, The Market Building is one of my proudest. This is because, first, it talks to the particular site and brief that we were set – I think it does the job of providing a place that’s an extension of the public realm. But I think it also talks more generally to what the workplace of the future might be like.

Workplaces are changing. And wellbeing is becoming as important as the work itself. But how do you encourage wellbeing through architecture? The stress must be put on the quality of the space. You want the building to support meetings, the exchange of ideas, not to mention the social dimension of work. People who want to live in a lively city, want a lively office.

How best to do this? Simple: move the lifts. In most retail-office buildings, all the lifts and stairs go in the middle of the plan. We don’t like that. It squashes both the retail and office space around the edges, blocks natural light. The spaces become purely functional – you go to the lobby, get your lift, and go to the top floor. But by pushing the lifts and stairs to the north edge of the plan, we’ve opened up a wonderful space on the ground floor for retail. And on the upper floor it opened up the opportunity to create open, light filled and well-connected spaces for work. Plus, the stairs are glazed, opening them up to public view. So you’re kind of encouraged to take the stairs because you can see what it links. It feels convenient, and is a lot healthier to take the stairs. But the big one for us is that we’re trying to promote chance interaction. It’s that quick chat we have with a colleague on the way up to the office that might just be the most valuable part of our day.

Beyond that, each floor has tall ceilings, the space is lofty, well proportioned, brilliantly lit. Every floor links to an outdoor terrace space, which feels like a really important part of the quality of environment. Then there are the social spaces on your doorstep, which we hope will function as a formal extension of the office space. You could have a meeting in the office, in a breakout area, or on the top floor restaurant sitting on a terrace having a glass of white wine. That’s an important part of the offer.

I don’t like aggressive shape-making. By that I mean that good architecture – and more broadly, good cities – should be the background to the lives of the people who live in it. Now, that requires a degree of sobriety and reticence in the architecture, quietness even. But that doesn’t mean boring. We want our work to be really rich and layered and sophisticated. Plus, we want it to repay close scrutiny.

Public spaces have to feel public. There can’t be any confusion; you need to know what’s public and what’s private. And there’s a liberty in that. You could wander round Smithfield Market and know where you are and where you stand, both literally and figuratively. You know you’re in a city and you understand how it works.

I love wandering through London and just looking up at the buildings, seeing the kind of care with which they’ve been put together. For me, that is thrilling, and I want The Market Building to have that effect on people. It will be good architecture, and it will be very carefully put together. But more than that – more than anything else, really – I want it to reflect the lives of the people living and working in it.


Interview by Matt Blake

Twitter @mattblakeuk

Topping out at Ten Park Drive

Canary Wharf Group Achieves the Topping Out of Ten Park Drive

Canary Wharf Group, one of London’s leading developers, has achieved a significant milestone with the topping out of Ten Park Drive, the first residential apartments the Group has built on the Canary Wharf estate. The building has reached its full height of 149 metres above ground level. Designed by the internationally renowned Stanton Williams Architects, the building will offer 345 homes when it completes in the final quarter of 2019. Ten Park Drive will form a key part of Canary Wharf’s new residential district, Wood Wharf, alongside neighbouring residential development, One Park Drive.

Ten Park Drive will comprise 74 studios, 115 one-bedroom apartments, 141 two-bedroom apartments and 15 three-bedroom apartments when complete. The development saw unprecedented interest when it was first launched in July 2015, with over 60 buyers camping overnight to secure their home of choice. With 275 units now sold (80%), Ten Park Drive is currently withdrawn from the market.

The apartments have been designed to maximise the light and stunning vistas of the surroundings at every opportunity, and interiors have been masterminded by Make Architects. Residents of Ten Park Drive will also have access to a private sky terrace on the 13th floor, with bookable facilities and free use of shared spaces. The development sits adjacent to South Dock and is linked to the water by exquisitely landscaped gardens and parks. Purchasers will also have access to a state-of-the-art new health and fitness club with a swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and fitness class studio.

Wood Wharf is London’s newest district; an exciting new expansion into reclaimed land by Canary Wharf Group. Residents at Ten Park Drive will be at the centre of a new community, and close to the wide array of art and events, many of which are free as well as five retail malls. With the opening of Elizabeth Line imminently in December this year, those working nearby will be perfectly placed for a speedy commute.

With up to 3,600 homes in the pipeline, including One Park Drive, Wood Wharf is a burgeoning community just waiting to happen. Currently on the market, One Park Drive features beautifully crafted interiors and private balconies, with views over the Thames and surrounding areas of London. Studios, one, two and three-bedroom apartments are available from £665,000.

Brian De’ath, Head of Residential Sales at Canary Wharf Group, said: “This is an exciting step in the construction of Ten Park Drive, both for the area and for us at Canary Wharf Group as we top out our first residences on the Estate. The work that has gone into the development so far has been phenomenal, and we look forward to it reaching completion and for the first residents to move into Canary Wharf’.

 “Some of our purchasers camped out overnight to be able to secure a home at Ten Park Drive which I strongly believe says a great deal about the quality of the offering here. The extensive calendar of events, diverse community and excellent transport links on the Estate are making it an increasingly hard location to beat within the London property market.”

For more information regarding Wood Wharf and the residential offerings at Canary Wharf, contact Canary Wharf Group on 020 7001 3800, email or visit

To see the original press release click on the link below.