Looking back 20 years, ‘I Love Dogs‘ reflects a broader cultural experience of the 1990s. Local changes were vicariously witnessed extremely widely, with the ‘greed is good’ attitude exemplified by 1 Canada Square – Canary Wharf Tower. These images, selected from the original exhibition, explore how each memory of Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs is now coloured by the experiences of the intervening years.
Canary Wharf tower (1 Canada Square) was completed in 1991. Fifty stories of arrogant manhood, shining day and night to proclaim the power of money.
The Isle of Dogs, an ignored, misshapen wart of previously industrial docklands in a horseshoe of the Thames was, literally, overshadowed by the development. Pre-existing residents were predominantly working-class, and social housing prevalent all across the Isle. And from everywhere on the Isle, Canary Wharf was visible.
As the financial crisis of the early 1990s passed, developers, and the London Docklands Development Corporation, sensed opportunity. Every empty plot of former docks and warehouses was turned into expensive private housing.
No consideration was made for existing residents. Gated ‘compounds’ kept old and new apart, and no structures were put in place for any kind of local community to develop. No bars, shops, galleries, schools, play spaces….
Canary Wharf further isolated itself, with a very strong security presence, after the IRA attack at South Quay in 1996. The pre-1991 residents rapidly became the minority as the Isle became nothing more than a glorified dormitory for Canary Wharf and City workers.
The only place exempt from new-builds was Millwall Park and the City Farm; a beautiful contrast to the steel and concrete.
Luckily for the absent yet omnipresent developers, they did not experience the local resentment, bitterness and resignation to the inevitable subjugation of the ‘worthless’ old to the shiny new.
And it did not stop; next came the Millennium Dome, tantalisingly placed beyond reach across the moat of the Thames, over £750 million pounds spent on a glory those closest to it could not share.
It was an awkward place, the Isle of Dogs in the 1990s. As much of a culture clash as England could provide at the time.
These photographs reflect the dominance the Canary Wharf development, and in particular the tower, exerted over the Isle of Dogs during the 1990s. The local alienation, fear, isolation and exclusion was tangible during this time of frighteningly fast social and structural change.
‘I Love Dogs’, and the sister work ‘I Love Dogs Too!’ were exhibited at the Space Gallery, Isle of Dogs, London E9, in 1999. The exhibition was self-produced, self-curated, and earned financial support from Canary Wharf Ltd. The exhibition was the most popular the gallery had held.