Planning for post-Olympics

07 Dec 2011

OPLC announces 10 competing designs, aiming to create a new park legacy in London

On 3rd December the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) unveiled the final ten designs shortlisted for potential implementation in London’s newest public spaces. Located in the already rejuvenated East End of London, between the Aquatics Centre, the Olympic Stadium, the ArcelorMittal and the 2012 Gardens, this latest project will continue the trend of seeking a lasting impact on the area. With the appearance of a flurry of constructed infrastructure and features which has followed in the wake of the United Kingdom’s successful Olympics bid, it’s becoming increasingly important to ensure that change is more than a temporary benefit.

At the heart of this particular scheme will be two complimenting, distinctive public spaces, forming the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park which will meet to the needs of local residents and tourists once the Games have concluded. The final contenders are split into two categories, marked by a north/south divide; half will be judged on their merited works proposed for the northern areas, whilst the other half will be hoping to renovate parkland further south.

Those vying for the latter opportunity to set their scenic mark are a fittingly diverse range of international practices, comprising of: Paris firm Agence Ter; London firm Gustafson Porter; New York’s James Corner Field Operations; Ken Smith, landscape architect of Shanghai based World Landscape Architecture; and Dutch company West 8.

The associated competition was launched by the OPLC in July this year, with the named contenders being elected to develop, and then showcase, a design concept. An expert panel - including local representatives - will preside over the judging before announcing a winner later this month. Those whose works were eliminated prior to this final hurdle will have their respective efforts exhibited in a number of public galleries.

Written in the overall design brief was the remit to create a distinctive area that will bring together a vibrant mix of cultural events, beautiful spaces and recreational uses. These spaces will preferably be adorned with such features as: a visitor centre, water features and imaginative play facilities, whilst hosting a range of diverse festivals and performances.

"With millions of people expected to visit the Park each year, this will be London's newest and most exciting public space, welcoming the world to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park," said Andrew Altman, chief executive of the OPLC. "The Olympic Park Legacy Company is mobilising plans at pace for the development of the Olympic Park after the 2012 Games. Plans are more advanced than any previous host Olympic City to deliver an exciting mix of new homes, jobs, leisure and business opportunities."

It is expected that this latest urban landscape could end up evolving into a not too dissimilar version of London’s popular South Bank; certainly much that has long drawn throngs of people to that existing landmark is to be attempted to be reborn. Plans for a vibrant programme of outdoor events, water features, art installations and imaginative play facilities, including a skate park, should provide a diverse range of appeal.

Highlighting the aspired promotion of local interaction, the second area - set within the stunning green river valley in the north park - will facilitate a number of community friendly multi-purpose amenities, with a view to encourage local schools. Set as a mandatory demand by the OPLC, regardless of which design eventually comes to fruition, ‘an outstanding and integrated play facility’ should ensure that this is a reasonably easy task.

Tom Aston

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