London Revs Up for 2012 Summer Olympics
When it started preparing for the 2012 Summer Games, the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) put two key items on its agenda: contribute to East London’s ongoing revitalization in a sustainable way, and avoid “white elephant” venues that would not be used after the Games end. As part of that vision, in March it announced that American landscape architects Hargreaves Associates and London-based LDA Design will design the Olympic Park. Its site in the long-neglected Lower Lea Valley, which is crisscrossed by waterways, recently was cleared for redevelopment.
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Encompassing nearly 1 square mile, the project will be the largest park built in London since the Victorian era. It will include areas for community gardens, wildlife preservation, and concerts and festivals. The design also calls for bicycle routes and footpaths that will connect the Valley with the River Thames for the first time. Hargreaves Associates, which designed the Sydney 2000 Olympic Park, is aware of how much hinges on the project. “It is the centerpiece of Europe’s largest regeneration program,” says firm partner Andrew Harland, “and [it] will have a positive economic and social impact on the whole area.”
Another recently announced project aims to have a lasting impact: In May, the developer Lend Lease revealed the winners of a competition to design the Olympic Athletes Village on a site master-planned by Vogt, a Swiss landscape architecture firm, and London-based Patel Taylor. Whittled down from 400 entries, the chosen candidates are mainly established and emerging names from the U.K., such as DSDHA and de Rijke Marsh Morgan Architects. The overall scheme calls for 13 mid-rises and two 30-story residential towers. Post-Games, the Village will be wrapped into Stratford City, a 180-acre mixed-use redevelopment of derelict rail lands.
Similarly, Olympic venues already underway reflect a concern for long-term use. The 6,000-seat Velodrome, designed by Hopkins Architects, will be reconfigured with road cycle circuits and a mountain bike course, making it a major cycling hub in London. Zaha Hadid’s sinuous Aquatics Centre complex, with its two 164-foot-long swimming pools and diving pool, will be the city’s largest natatorium. And the Olympic Stadium, designed by HOK Sport and Peter Cook, contains a detachable top tier with 55,000 seats that will be removed after the Games. While critics have decried the stadium’s design as too ordinary for a world-class event, the architects say that practical character is precisely what ensures its usefulness well into the future.
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