With the legacy project of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park well underway and more and more of London Legacy Development Corporation's (LLDC) forthcoming plans coming into the public domain, it was timely for a tour of the whole site led by LLDC themselves.
During the first half of 2014, the south of the park reopened, including the system of waterways; the ArcelorMittal Orbit has fast become one of the city’s tourist attractions; and the park has already had over three million visitors. The VeloPark has opened to the public, as have the hockey and tennis centres. The London Aquatics Centre has quickly become a busy local swimming pool, reopening its doors in March.
But walking the full length of the park along the River Lea, the multiplicity and scale of this regeneration project is staggering. Five new neighbourhoods, including three new schools, commercial hubs, and with the new Olympicopolis initiative, a new culture and education quarter. 'We need to balance consumerism with culture,' said LLDC chief of design Kathryn Firth, referring to the Westfield shopping mall which predates the legacy project. Taking inspiration from London's great estates, LLDC intends to create a rich urban fabric closely integrated with the surrounding neighbourhoods.
The surroundings permeate the park physically with a complex infrastructure that is in a state of flux. There is mediation between levels, a system of bridges (currently 35, but there will be more) over renovated canals, roads, train lines and walkways. The infrastructure has adapted to meet the needs to its users, and bridges which were temporary have been made permanent.
This relationship between Games Mode and Legacy Mode means that the temporary interweaves with the permanent throughout. This is the nature of the landscape surrounding Hackney Wick, which has Europe's densest concentration of artists living and working in one area. This has filtered into the very bones of the park, with products developed in surrounding areas being used in the construction.
The local needs to relate to the international in a swift swoop as Fish Island comes face to face with Here East. A new hub for creative and digital industries, designed by HawkinsBrown, is already home to BT Sport. The gantry on the south facing elevation will be a 'cabinet of curiosities,' creating adaptable spaces for pop-up uses, encouraging new businesses to take up space and linking to the many meanwhile uses over the water.
The personality of Hackney Wick informs that of the proposed International Quarter. The vision for the park is community-driven, the fringe projects integral to the success of the central areas. It is, as Firth puts it, 'A pebble in the pond working in reverse'. The excitement of what is possible in the park can be felt as you move around, something LLDC have managed to retain from the Olympics.
By Lucie Murray, Programme Co-ordinator, NLA