Words: Catherine Moye
For Ian Simpson, the internationally acclaimed architect and a senior partner at SimpsonHaugh and Partners, the inspiration for Canary Wharf’s most exciting new development, Dollar Bay, lay in the site at South Dock, the most southerly part of West India Docks. It was a gift of an architectural opportunity, which, like a blue Tiffany’s box, could reveal a diamond of a development.
‘The site was fantastic, in that you could look back at the wide expanse of Canary Wharf and it felt like New York. Really just tremendous,’ Simpson said.
His vision was to produce a building, which for all of its imposing substance would also have a lightness of touch about it, an almost ethereal presence.
‘What we wanted to do was have a building that touched the ground quite lightly, and was very much influenced by the fact it was at the edge of a linear dock, so it continued the notion of the water up the building,’ Simpson explained recently. ‘This means that, from the inside, you can see out, but from the outside, you can catch the reflections of both the water and the sky.’
To achieve this effect, Simpson’s design involved positioning large panes of reflective glass the whole height of both parts of the tower – only, instead of placing them in uniform succession, he arranged these panes in a jaggedly asymmetrical way reminiscent of the structure of crystals. This concept meant the angled glass maximised the building’s ability to mirror its surroundings.
Those who bought into the earlier boxy and prosaic residential schemes in Docklands will probably gaze enviously upon Dollar Bay’s standout design, albeit with appreciation for the stunning building. It is a quasi-sculptural benefit to the skyline in all moods and weathers, reflecting impressions of the surrounding water, sunshine and sky during the day and the city lights at night. Its striking, mirrored silhouette might be likened to an early sculpture by the artist Anish Kapoor.
Such style and vision must also be credited to developers Mount Anvil and their partners Citystyle Homes, whose experience and skill in delivering high-end schemes has surely reached its zenith at Dollar Bay.
Even as it draws towards completion, Dollar Bay simultaneously harks back to an earlier era when the masts of merchant ships dominated Canary Wharf’s skyline, and forward to the future of a district resonating with life and opportunity.
Find out more about Dollar Bay by visiting dollarbay.co.uk