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One Canada Square
Canary Wharf, Docklands, London, UK
One Canada Square
associated engineer
Yolles Partnership
date  January 1985 - November 1990
era  Modern  |  category  Building  |  reference  TQ375803
Architect Cesar Pelli's 50 storey office tower in London's Docklands was the first skyscraper to be clad in stainless steel. It was the tallest building in Europe at the time of its construction, and Britain's tallest building for 20 years. Its construction led the transformation of a run-down area on the Isle of Dogs into the UK’s foremost financial hub.
In the late 1960s and during the 1970s, London's traditional dock work and trade declined. By 1980, the docks on the Isle of Dogs, within a loop of the River Thames, were largely derelict. In 1981, the Docklands Development Corporation was set up to promote regeneration of the area. From 1987, Olympia & York, headed by Canadian property tycoon Paul Reichmann (1930-2013), was responsible for the development at Canary Wharf, which gets its name from the quay where fresh produce from the Canary Islands was unloaded.
One Canada Square, commonly known as Canary Wharf Tower, was the first skyscraper to rise from the disused docks. The building is in the Post Modern style and takes the form of an obelisk — a tower square in plan with a pyramidal top. It was designed by architect Cesar Pelli (b.1926) and shares a similar form to his tower at 200 Vesey Street, New York (completed 1985). Structural engineer was Yolles & Partners and main contractor Sir Robert McAlpine.
The building is 235.1m high (245.75m above sea level) with 50 floors and three basement levels. Though originally planned to be 263.3m tall and 55 storeys, its height was reduced to comply with air traffic regulations, so as not to be a hazard to aircraft. The building footprint was adjusted to accommodate the space from the omitted floors.
Construction began in 1988, with the erection of a cofferdam for the foundations. Some 222 base grouted piles, each 1.5m in diameter, were bored 23m deep and capped with a 4m thick heavily reinforced concrete raft.
The tower consists of a steel frame expressed as closely spaced columns around the perimeter of the composite floors, which have steel cores. Altogether 27,500 tonnes of steel and 500,000 bolts were used in the steel frame.
The façade is clad in 3,960 triple-glazed windows and approximately 34,400 sq m of stainless steel curtain wall. The stainless steel and glass together weigh 47,000 tonnes. The use of steel is intended to represent Britain’s industrial heritage and the Patten Hyclad Cambric (linen) finish of the panels "reflects London’s grey and misty atmosphere", according to Pelli.
The building's gross floor area is 162,417 sq m, including 900 underground parking spaces. The average area of each level is 2,563 sq m. Most floors are 4.1m apart, giving a minimum 2.7m clearance from raised floor to dropped ceiling. Four floors have an additional 152mm spacing, allowing thicker raised floors to support computer and heavy mechanical use. Another four floors have an additional 305mm clearance for their use as trading floors, and the top storey has an extra 610mm headroom.
The 11m high street level entrance lobby is lined with more than 8,000 sq m of polished marble — Italian Rosso Levanto and Guatemalan Verde Imperial. Access to the floors above is provided by 36 Otis gearless traction elevators. Two are designated fire escape lifts, two are for freight only and the remaining are high-speed passenger lifts capable of whisking travellers from the lobby to the 50th floor in 40 seconds. A total of 4,388 steps are arranged into four fire escape stairways. The lobby also connects to the Docklands Light Railway station.
The pyramid is 39.7m high, some 30m square at the base and weighs more than 100 tonnes. Its sloping sides are of steel louvres, designed to be self-cleaning during rainfall. An aircraft warning light at the peak flashes 40 times per minute, night and day.
The structural design allows for up to 350mm sway (deflection) at the top of the building in order to cope with the strongest winds expected — those that might occur once in 100 years. Movements are counteracted by a steel pendulum at the top of the tower, which acts as a tuned mass damper to reduce the amplitude of sway vibrations.
Water is continuosly pumped to the pyramid roof to provide sufficient pressure for the tower’s water supply. On average, the building uses almost one million litres of water per day. Some is used for window cleaning, by automatic window washing machines and manual cleaning cradles lowered from rails around the base of the pyramid.
To avoid gridlock on the already congested traffic routes to the area, most of the materials required were brought to site by river barges and unloaded on the dockside. Waste and excavation arisings were taken off site the same way. During peak construction, the workforce numbered about 4,500 people and more than 500 barge trips were undertaken per month.
Fast-track construction methods included using jump lift technology. The lift shafts under construction kept pace with steelwork erection, and were equipped with lifting machinery, and canteen and washroom facilities so that workers did not need to return to ground level during shifts.
In 1990, Lehrer McGovern International took over as construction manager, contracting most of the work to Balfour Beatty. On 8th November 1990, One Canada Square was topped out when the pyramid capping piece was craned into place. It was the tallest building in Britain and, briefly, in Europe until the 257m Messeturm (Trade Fair Tower) building in Frankfurt was completed in 1991.
Office space at One Canada Square remained unoccupied until 1991. The first tenants were banks or financial institutions. The opening ceremony was held on 26th August 1991, by which time the British economy was in recession.
By March 1992, the tower was still only 60 percent occupied. In May 1992, Olympia & York went into administration, a casualty of falling property values and interest rate rises. In 1995, Reichmann formed Canary Wharf Ltd (now Canary Wharf Group) and bought back the development. In 2004, the group was taken over by Songbird Estates.
On 17th September 1999, the long-awaited London Underground station at Canary Wharf opened to the west of the tower. The station was designed by architect Norman Foster (b.1935, knighted 1990, Baron Foster of Thames Bank 1999) of Foster and Partners and is on a branch of the Jubilee Line between Canada Water and North Greenwich. It provides underground access to One Canada Square, the Docklands Light Railway station and numerous retail shopping outlets.
Around 2007, tower upgrades included the installation of LED lighting, and the improvement of water services and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. The measures resulted in a 30 percent reduction in energy consumption. Between 2008 and 2016, the building's working population increased from 6,600 to 9,975 people.
In 2009 a third freight lift was added, inside a vacant shaft dating from the building's construction. Park Pavilion, a two storey glass structure with roof terrace, designed by Pelli and Koetter Kim & Associates, opened on the east side of the building.
In November 2010, The Shard, under construction near London Bridge outstripped One Canada Square to become Britain’s tallest building.
In October 2013, the One Canada Square’s lobby was modified to contain a restaurant and bar, designed by David Collins Studio, and includes two crossing floating staircases.
Architect: Cesar Pelli & Associates (Pelli Clarke Pelli)
Mechanical engineer: H.H. Angus & Associates Limited
Construction manager: Lehrer McGovern International
Contractor: Sir Robert McAlpine
Contractor: Balfour Beatty
Bored piles: Piggot Foundations
Foundation slab: Costain
Mechanical installations: Canary Wharf Contractors
Research: ECPK
reference sources   www.emperium.com

One Canada Square