I have a fascination with Docklands. A lot of people don't seem to like the place, and to be fair it's not really like the rest of London. It aspires to be, and often seems, a tiny splinter of Manhattan implanted at the centre of the Isle of Dogs, as if by growing from the centre it can spread the influence of glass and steel over the entire peninsula.
That sense of growth and infection has really sped up in the last five years. In '97 One Canada Square was still a lone phallic symbol embedded in a bunch of tedious low rise buildings huddling behind the wharves for protection. Now, though, with the HSBC and Citibank towers acting as supportive friends to the central tower, and a bunch of other towers almost as high spreading south into a drained wharf to form the new Bank Street, the idea of Docklands again seems like a bright new future rather than a broken Thatcherite past.
Of course, this is one of the reasons I feel odd about the entire development; it represents, to me, a political mindset of greed and acquisition. However, the sheer aesthetic quality of the place appeals to me more than my political misgivings repel me. Some of the other misgivings people have about the place don't really appeal to me. Yes, it is on a rather inhuman scale, and it doesn't have many nice places to eat and drink, being dominated by yuppie bars. I'm not there to have a good time, though; at least, not in the sense of eating and drinking. I'm there to admire the buildings (and, of course, the process of building itself).
The reason I'm mentioning all of this now is because Docklands is a place I often visit when a bit stressed, and I went down there a week or two ago. It was a fairly brief visit, but I knew I needed to go back with a camera. On Monday I did that, and took photographs of what will be 1 West India Quay, a rather tall apartment block; the new Bank Street development, which seems to have come on rather quickly in the last ten months; the newly opened garden on top of the massive Canary Wharf Jubilee Line station, and then down the DLR to Westferry, where a new residential development is going up next to a row of old terraced houses.
The great thing about the pace of the development is that it gives me the perfect excuse to visit again in a few months. Hell, even if they weren't building, I'd go down there just to lie on the fake plastic grass of Canada Square and look up at the piece of sky encircled by the three towers. There's nowhere else like it in London.