Foster's Crossrail Place roof garden opens at Canary Wharf

Tropical roof gardens and a leisure complex designed by Foster + Partners to sit above a new Crossrail station at Canary Wharf in London has opened to the public.

The seven-storey structure is the first new building for Crossrail – London's new east-west rail link – to open, although trains will not run from the station for at least three years.

Located in the heart of London's Canary Wharf financial hub on the North Dock, the station will be one of 40 that will serve the capital's new rail network, scheduled to open in 2018.

Crossrail Place at Canary Wharf by Foster + Partners

British firm Foster + Partners has designed the roof structure and cladding that wraps around the four storeys of shopping and leisure facilities above ground level, as well as the gardens on the top level. Collectively named Crossrail Place, the shopping centre and outdoor space will opened to the public on 1 May.

The roof garden, landscaped by London-based studio Gillespies, is located directly beneath a 310-metre-long transparent hood. Triangular air-filled cushions made from ETFE – a type of plastic used for its resistance to corrosion – are set into the timber-latticed awning.

"Like Crossrail, one of the aims of the new roof garden is to connect London from east to west," said Norman Foster in a statement. "

"It provides a welcoming public space between the residential neighbourhood of Poplar and the business district of Canary Wharf, demonstrating the role of infrastructure as the 'urban glue' that binds a city together," added the Foster + Partners founder.

Crossrail Place at Canary Wharf by Foster+Partners

Planting selected for the gardens is intended to reference the area's maritime heritage. Many of the chosen species are indigenous to countries visited during the 19th century by trading ships that used the three docks built in the area by the West India Dock Company trading group. The docks began to fall out of use in the 1960s and were closed in the 1980s, later becoming part of the Canary Wharf redevelopment project.

"The design of the garden responds to the architectural language of the roof in the creation of a unique and sheltered planting environment," said Gillespies partner Stephen Richards. "It will offer visitors a totally new vantage point from which to look out across the water and the surrounding area."

The roof garden will be open to the public from dawn until dusk. Unlike its City equivalent, the Sky Garden, bookings will not be required.

Restaurants and shops located below the gardens will open in phases, with the first ten coinciding with the opening of the complex.