Four key approaches to Canada Water Eastern Dock Edge - view portfolio

Our involvement with the development at Canada Water Eastern Dock Edge is an opportunity to turn a paved concrete deck structure, devoid of any meaningful planting, into a biodiverse site, providing ecological connectivity to the wider area.

The development is part of the larger Canada Water redevelopment to create a regenerated area for residents, workers and visitors. It will be a welcoming social space and we have included many features in our design to allow for that – here are five key approaches that will provide benefits for people and wildlife alike.




A large part of this area contained little or no planting. We will be bringing in a full range of plants and creating significant new planting areas. Because of the waterside location, we approached the planting for the development considering three distinct levels from the waterside up to the higher walkways.

This approach allows us to bring in different mixes of plants according to the level at which they are planted.

The distinct parts of the site (the upper and lower levels) provide very different soil conditions and therefore opportunities for species diversity and habitat creation.


Much like a wetland, the planting and trees will change as the ground level rises. Zone one will contain species closely associated with water, some being upright, others drifting across the water plane. All will bring foliage, colour and create habitat at this lower ier.


Zone two will represent the transitional riparian zone often found between water and land. This landscape typology often contains highly diverse flora and fauna and is an important habitat that is becoming increasingly rare.

abstract nature:

Zone three, the uppermost level is seen as an abstraction of nature. These areas are physically disconnected from the water body and so water loving plants would not be suitable. However, it is important that the planting relates to the waterfront character. Ornamental perennial grasses will be mixed through the species rich planting to create a creed like character along the promenade.


In each of these zones following this approach allows us to include plants that will offer seasonality and interest throughout the year, have a proven wildlife value and improve the local biodiversity through their provision of food and habitats.


habitat creation

The distinct parts of the site (the upper and lower levels) provide very different soil conditions and therefore opportunities for species diversity and habitat creation.

Planting mix 1 has been selected to reinforce the water edge character and create a cohesive look and feel across the dock edge. It uses ‘reed like’ ornamental grasses to capture movement and sound whilst being adapted to the drier conditions of the upper deck. The grasses are mixed with a varied and complex palette for pollinators to provide soft planting and an active part of the habitat creation, climate change mitigation and place-making. And of course, we want this planting to provide a visual attraction for people and wildlife.

Planting mix 2 is located at the lower level and is supported by a proprietary “floating system”, thus creating essential habitats below the water surface. The taller reed beds create shelter and privacy along the northern edge, whilst the eastern beds provide a varied mix of native marginal species. We’re also adding integrated timber planters  to  allow us to create additional soil volume to accommodate shrubs and small multi-stem trees.

Planting mix 3 is located to south-eastern corner and shares a similar palette to mix 2, with the addition of some larger native shrubs for structure and screening. It forms the understorey to the proposed Taxodium (swamp cypress). The native marginal species and the large buttress root system will provide habitat for invertebrates and amphibians.

Additional underwater habitat has been added under the lower decked areas to provide refuge for fish fry and insects and which works in conjunction with the floating plant root system to create a new, continuous habitat along the eastern edge.


creating habitat connections

We are working closely with local wildlife and community groups to be sure that as far as possible, we can include plants of local provenance or importance to enhance and reinforce the habitats for this Site of Importance for Nature Conservation. This will help us to create a place embedded in its context and that contributes to the wider creation of habitat links and connections.

At the lower promenade (wetland), we will create a floating habitat, planted with native water tolerant shrubs and multi-stems, for example alder buckthorn and bog myrtle. We will be planting larger specimen trees, swamp cypress, to the south-eastern corner

For the Upper promenade we’ve selected  Alnus x spaethii (alder) for the planters along the upper level to reinforce the ‘water’s edge’ character of the dock and also visually connect with the proposed wet woodland to the west of the larger development which is being created by TDA. Unlike some alders, Alnus x spaethii can thrive in drier conditions (and periods of drought) and is nitrogen fixing so is more suitable for the soil conditions of the raised planters above the concrete deck.

We want the proposed planting to play a central role in defining the dock edge character of the development and create important stepping-stone habitats across the site. With that in mind, our choices are based on the following principles:

  • provide seasonal interest and extended flowering season
  • Use native marginal planting alng the water edge with proven benefits to wildlife and encourage locally important species
  • Include edible and sensory planting to reinforce the connection and opportunities for engagement with the landscape.
  • Ensure the planting does not detract from a safe environment by considering clear sight lines within the public realm
  • Selecting a varied species palette that will create a hierarchy of vegetation from canopy to ground cover through native species and non-native species of value to wildlife, including planting for pollinators.

a sense of place

The peninsular of Surrey Quays is synonymous with maritime and dockland heritage, for the best part of the 20th Century, this was an area of working docks connected to the Thames through a series of canals.

We have taken inspiration from the history of the site to form a narrative that is sensitive to both the existing and historical context of the area. This part of the city has been defined by the presence of the water for centuries most recently as a commercial dock. Change has also defined this part of London – from marshland to dockland to today’s masterplan vision.

The proposals for the Eastern Dock Edge look back to the industrial heritage, the people and the ways the docks were used in the past, to celebrate, reflect and remind people both new and old of the importance of these areas to the development of London. We have reflected this in our design language and materials chosen.

We have used wooden seating to mirror the wooden construction of the historic dockland. Generous walkways will also be created using natural stone paving to match the overall natural stone palette in Canada Water Dockside and ensure a cohesive experience across the public realm. While metal balustrades maintain the maritime feel of the development.

As well as using plants to create a sense of place, with grasses mimicking the movement of reeds underwater and different heights of planting allow for privacy or views across the water.

All these measures should provide increased species diversity and climate resilience, while creating a strong sense of place connected to the immediate and surrounding areas.

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