Landmarks: Docklands

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The church of St George in the East stands right on the fringes of Docklands, about a mile from the white elephant of Canary Wharf and opposite the Docklands' outpost of Tobacco Wharf. You can see both buildings from the highway that cuts across this area of London on the way east. When I went to have a closer look at the church, on a Sunday morning, I discovered a congregation of about 30 people which, they said, was a pretty good crowd. It was a very middle-class congregation, not the Docklands yuppies, but people who have moved into the lovely Georgian terraced houses on Cable Street, which were left empty by the Sixties rehousing schemes.

The church is fascinating because its design is almost, but not quite, recognisable - there are voids where you would expect to find solids. This gives the building a slightly haunting atmosphere and is a tribute to Hawksmoor's deliberate departure from the classical style of his teacher Sir Christopher Wren. The church lost its original interior in the wartime bombing; a smaller edifice was constructed inside it in 1964. This has at least managed to safeguard Hawksmoor's original exterior and his curious lantern tower which was a feature of many churches in the country for guiding travellers to safety. It contrasts with the lantern atop Canary Wharf which is there solely to steer people away.

The area around the church is fairly depressing, dominated by the slab blocks of East End social housing, but fortunately Tower Hamlets Council is beginning to get its act together, renovating the estates. Many buildings in the locality have now been tarted up.

Janet Payne is an architect based in Ockendon Road, London W1

(Photograph omitted)

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