Into the Garden of Glass and Steel

18 Apr

This movie was a great way to kick of the Architecture and Design Film Festival. Into the Garden of Glass and Steel was a very strong portrayal of how the Canary Wharf section of London has been turned into an engineered world devoid of life. The tone of the movie was very negative against this grouping of buildings and explained the are in very Orwellian terms.

“Representative democracy had been replaced by the surveillance camera”

Canary Whart, London, United Kingdom

Canary Wharf Tube Station

It was really interesting watching the movie having visited Canary Wharf. This is a place that I took a trip to while I was on my high school trip to London in 2005 and went there solely for seeing where the skyscrapers of London were. I had no idea what to expect but I got off in what is one of the most beautiful subway stops I have seen. The cavernous ticket level was just the first space I would encounter that felt nearly empty. This really struck me because I had gone to one of the major business districts in London in the middle of the day on a weekday and yet it was empty (or close enough). As I wandered around I did start to encounter some people and realized there were some really nice spaces but they all felt deserted. It felt like the space was set up so people would show up, go straight to their office, then head right back and never actually spend any time there.

“The normal order is engineered into their lives”

This movie portrayed the space as much worse than I encountered but I completely got where it was coming from. This massive “Garden of Glass and Steel” was slightly more lively than pictured but is a place I would not want to work or live (a visit is worth it to experience the emptiness). It is a great example of what not to do for urban planning. I think the ending statement really does sum up the area rather well:

“An environment built not for man but for man’s absence”

It was not intended to be that way but that is the feeling of Canary Wharf.

Video excerpt from the movie:

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