Float Canary Wharf

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Intervention to rejuvenate the underpass space of the North Colonnade. Paint treatment of general area, introduction of false ceiling with light emitted slits and cladding in light wells with light emitting translucent tanks.

Client: Canary Wharf Group Plc.
Commissioning agent: Theresa Bergne, Canary Wharf Group
Engineer: Tim Lucas/ Price & Myers 3D Engineering.
Manufacture: JRF Panels
Budget: £300,000
Photo: Philip Vile
Publication: Art Map produced by Public Art, Canary Wharf Group.
Awards: National Lighting Design Awards 2003, Highly commended.
Acknowledgments: Sally Williams, Martin McLean, Theresa Simon Communications.

The space needed resolution, which would be uplifting and yet sensitive to the repeated journeys of the many commuters. For road safety the lights used had to avoid confusion with traffic lights, not clash with one another and be non-dazzling. The site offered extreme height limitations and the design was complicated by the fact that none of the surfaces to be addressed were true.

The scheme involves three main elements. Firstly painting the raw concrete white, with a vertical pattern of gloss and matt paint on the columns, with the intention of homogenising the space, lightening it and making the columns seem taller and thinner.

Also to encourage the perception that the space was taller a further intervention, paradoxically, was to drop a false ceiling. Panels sliced with cruciform slots emitting light, in such a way that the light emitting space could be perceived as infinitely distant.

Finally the light wells, which cut though the underpass into the station platform, were transformed into further emitting spaces that addressed the viewer both on the road below and the platform above. These raw concrete wells were clad in light-emitting translucent tanks.
The design provides a bright emanation of engaging colour which not only signals its presence as one approaches, but is flattering to those illuminated by it and is a refreshing burst of exuberant energy in a rather restrained corporate zone, in spite of the commercial exuberance of the site.

The light is welcoming and has an open, festive quality to it with the forms baffling and masking offering a formalism and seductive restraint. The violet at the centre provides a quieter point of focus at the heart of each form, echoing the glow within the tanks, which seem to produce a gentle aura of grace around their presence, without clashing with the bright, punchy pinks.

The panels, both mask the sources, and create spaces of emanation, which could engender a sense of desirable imaginative engagement, but are frustrating ultimately, as clearly it would be impossible to enter physically the radiant space above. So, perhaps we could suggest that the installation starts to address the dance of seduction, desire and frustration in which we are partners within the very material world of Canary Wharf and environs.