Façade construction specialist seele created the futuristic roof to the railway station Canary Wharf Crossrail Station in London, UK, with 10,000sqm of ETFE-foil and 778 two-ply ETFE-cushions.


membrane construction  


two-layer, air-filled ETFE cushions  


steel nodes

canary wharf crossrail station -10,000sqm membrane construction

The Crossrail, the regional express line, connects west London with the new developments to the east of the capital. Many new stations were built. One of them is the almost 300m long “super station” in London’s Docklands, the Canary Wharf Crossrail Station designed by Lord Norman Foster. The station has six floors, two of them and the rooftop garden with its abundant vegetation are above water level, the other four below. Guaranteed to attract attention in this project is the roof of 778 triangular membrane cushions supported by a timber structure.

  • The demanding architectural stipulations are being transformed in a cooperative venture between seele and timber construction specialist Wiehag. Curving glued laminated timber beams form a barrel-vault lattice structure. In the middle of the building the beams are vertical, but on either side they tip over more and more towards the gable ends, finally cantilevering up to 30m out over the water.

    seele is the first company to use this exciting combination of materials. Never before have ETFE cushions been combined with timber on this scale. The double curvature of the timber structure in some places results in numerous different triangular formats into which the double-layer ETFE cushions must fit exactly. A new system of nodes and members was specially devised by seele for fixing the ETFE cushions. Depending on the g-value required, the membrane cushions are printed with three different patterns of dots and transparent or matt foil chosen for the inner layer to suit the internal usage. This project gave façade specialist seele a chance to show off its strengths in turning an architectural vision into a bespoke envelope.

    Reference overview, header image, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th & 6th: © Nigel Young / Foster + Partners

Unique nodes by seele ensure aesthetic and functional combination of wood and metal

seele devised a solution for the roof to the Canary Wharf Crossrail Station which is unique in terms of its complexity and aesthetics. The timber primary structure and the overlying aluminium secondary structure for the membrane were not conceived and built separately. Instead, they formed a joint concept from the outset, both geometrically and structurally. This strategy enabled seele to combine the two materials optimally with each other. It was an innovative approach that opened up totally new opportunities for highly aesthetic design right down to the tiniest details. A total of 564 steel nodes, which represent an innovation in terms of design and fabrication, connect all the members with the membrane cushions.

The complexity of the highly accurate 3D design work can be seen at the nodes. The connections between the diagonal timber members had to be fabricated with millimetre accuracy.© Nigel Young (Foster + Partners)
Complex nodes and structures can make it very difficult to achieve the necessary high-quality results unless powerful 3D software is used for design and fabrication – as is the case at seele.
seele designed the timber primary structure and the overlying aluminium secondary structure as one entity right from the outset. Timber and aluminium come together geometrically and structurally at common nodes. The attachment of ETFE-foil cushions to aluminium sections can be seen here.


Client Canary Wharf Contractors (Crossrail) Ltd.
Joint venture partner Wiehag GmbH
Architect Foster + Partners
Date of completion 2014
Scope of seele supply
  • Design, detailed design and erection of barrel-vault roofing
  • Approx. 10,000sqm foil roof with 778 two-layer, air-filled ETFE-cushions in various triangular formats with transparent, printed transparent or matt ETFE-foil (250μm)
  • Structural design of membrane envelope and production of cushions
  • Development of node systems, cover plates and rainwater gutters