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THE DISTINCTIVE LEAVES OF a row of maple trees rustle quietly in the breeze from the waters of the Thames nearby. They provide both a calming screen, a thoughtful addition at the pen of the planner, but also a nod to the area’s rich history: this peaceful spot in the heart of Rotherhithe used to be alive with the comings and goings of heavy Canadian ships. Once a dirty, bustling workplace – rather than the scene of relative tranquility there today – Canada Water, the last remaining part of the once thriving Canada Dock, has witnessed many changes since it was first created in the late 1800s. Now, in 2012, it is undergoing a major transformation once more, as this part of Rotherhithe is being turned into a 21st century town centre. Some 2,000 canal-side homes are being constructed through a partnership between Southwark Council, master developer Canada Quays and housebuilder Barratt Homes, helping to raise the aspirations of local people by offering a whole raft of educational, cultural and economic opportunities as well as new places to live. Some major milestones have already been reached. At the centre of this multimillion pound development on the Rotherhithe peninsula is the striking new public library designed by Piers Gough of CZWG Architects. It opened last year, at a time when libraries up and down the country were being shut by cash-strapped local authorities, a bold testimony to Southwark’s commitment to the power of education. Featuring a bronzed, hexagonal shape that leans across the dock as if reclaiming the area’s watery past, the fourstorey structure is clad in anodised aluminium topped by a green sedum roof. A central staircase spirals down to the floors below, and a graceful mezzanine offers views to the zigzagging shelves of books, artfully arranged to make best use of the space. The waterfront library provides the centrepiece of the new plaza, which opened in June 2012. As the project develops, the library will be complemented by surrounding homes, restaurants and retail units and become even more of a community hub, its location making it accessible to all. Gough says: “This building celebrates its brilliant location on a new public square, next to a bus and tube station and overlooking Canada Water basin. The library is an indoor public space, open to everyone, where you will find wonderful things you weren’t necessarily looking for. It is a futuristic Pandora’s box of possibilities.” Veronica Ward, Southwark Council’s cabinet member for culture, leisure, sport and the Olympics, calls the library “an incredible, breathtaking use of space” emphasising its many other uses. This is no staid final resting 18 ISSUE 9 AUTUMN 2012

“it is more than just a library, it is a community space for meetings, an outlet for the arts. it has all of these and it far exceeded my expectations”

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Southwark #9  

A high profile, high-quality business publication, Southwark magazine covers every aspect of Southwark Council's 12 year development program...

Southwark #9  

A high profile, high-quality business publication, Southwark magazine covers every aspect of Southwark Council's 12 year development program...