East Village – designing a legacy for London (1)

Thursday 22 March 2012

Implementing effective, high quality levels of estate management will be one of the crucial challenges facing Qatari Diar Delancey QDD in taking forward the East Village project.

That was one of the key findings to emerge from a breakfast talk at the NLA this morning, the first in a series to accompany the East Village: a lasting legacy for London exhibition, on display at the NLA from 13-31 March. Keynote speaker QDD chairman Stuart Corbyn talked through the key principles of the scheme, the challenge of creating a new community, and how, chosen to purchase the scheme six months ago, QDD had been interested in the project chiefly because of the site’s scale and location. ‘Where else do you have the opportunity to acquire 70 acres of London’, he asked. ‘It’s a fairly stunning addition to Stratford.’ 

But Elliott Lipton, executive director of Triathlon, the firm looking after the affordable housing element of the project, said that ‘the success of these developments is largely down to the management. Design gets overlooked by residents if management is not up to standard. Management will create a successful place.’ Lipton said the aim was to create the right mix of people forming a community of over 2500 homes, occupied six months after the Olympic Games. People in employment will be ‘prioritised’ for some of the homes available and there will also be a special focus on ex-service personnel, in Jubilee year. But it was this speed of creating a successful community in a very short space of time that keeps Lipton awake at night, he admitted. 

Corbyn said that he is happy at the impact the scheme will have, and that developing homes for rent demonstrates long-term commitment for an area. But if he had any concerns they were that the scheme is ‘a little on the short side’ in terms of storage for residents, and there is a job to be done in encouraging those residents to resist using their balconies and other outside space for storage. 

The session also heard from East Village masterplanner Jonathan Kendall from Fletcher Priest, who relayed the long-term ‘balancing act’ he and other partners had gone through to avoid either creating ‘an Expo’ of architecture or letting the need to accommodate 17,000 athletes for two weeks dictate everything. Stretching back over a decade and formed from tunnelling work on the key transport infrastructure projects around it, the secret of the project’s main success lay in the ‘alignment of ambitions’ over many years. Given its scale, the Village’s landscape elements were perhaps more important even than the buildings themselves, Kendall added, an element detailed by Vogt landscape architect Tom Griffiths. Finally, Patel Taylor associate Myshkin Clarke Hall described how one of the models for the East Village blocks had been Hanover Square, and the goal was for urban blocks tight enough to be efficient but ‘generous enough to accommodate city life’. Kendall added that other sources of inspiration had come from Scandinavia, with large developments built relatively quickly, and from Barcelona – both in an urban and Olympic sense.

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly

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