Situated to the east of London, encompassing four of the most deprived boroughs of London, the site that has become the Olympic Park started from very humble beginnings.
The full legacy of centuries of industrial activity on the site became apparent when work started in 2005. More than five years of work has resulted in its total transformation. It has literally been scraped clean, power lines that crossed the site have been buried and the completion of the largest soil-cleansing operation ever undertaken in the UK. The dereliction has gone, and in its place is a 246ha parkland crossed by new roads and bridges and threaded through with waterways. It is buzzing with new life including wildlife habitats, trees and plants.
The Olympic Delivery Authority appointed a multi-disciplinary team to deliver materplans for the Olympic games that included the creation of the new park. Allies and Morrison Architects formed a key part of this team. The park works have been split into three tranches – remediation, bridges and highways, and landscaping – as well as procuring a green ”energy centre”.
Most of the media attention has, quite naturally, concentrated on the major venues, but the completion of the contaminated land treatment, infrastructure and utilities has provided the backbone for not only the Olympic and Paralympic Games but also for the future legacy development. Some of the figures involved are mind boggling: 30,000 people will have worked on the park and 6,449 will be working at the park on the busiest day of the games.
The huge task of providing access to and around the olympic park has been carried out by collaboration between Allies and Morrison, Arup and Atkins. Before work started, the olympic park site was made up of isolated fragments of land with poor connections between local communities. The programme to build new structures, bridges and highways will not only provide access during the Games but will leave an open and accessible area in Legacy.
When the Games are over, 101ha of the site will become the Queen Elizabeth olympic park – the largest new urban park in the UK for over a century. the southern section will become a “festival“ park, with riverside gardens, wildflower display meadows and walking and cycle paths along restored and previously inaccessible waterways. the northern section uses green techniques to manage flood and rainwater, and will provide quieter public space and habitats for existing and rare species, from kingfishers to otters.
Within this area, a former landfill site has been remediated to create a wetland bowl with 15,000m2 of riverside spectator lawns, timber seating, frog ponds, loggeries, wetlands, woodlands, tree-lined footpaths and the largest man-made wet woodland in the UK. The park will boast 4,000 new semi-mature trees, over 2,000 of which have been grown in Hampshire and already planted.
Amongst all of the major works small interventions have in their own way made an important contribution to the overall project. Allies and Morrison have alongside their overarching masterplan contributed to the design and implementation of some of these smaller works.
The design principle for the typical footbridge parapet was developed and ultimately used extensively across the park. the intent was to create a visually lightweight but robust parapet that could effortlessly approach and cross bridges, traverse the landscape, define and protect edges and transform as particular conditions or design standards demand. the process for the design and implementation of the parapets underwent a rigorous design scrutiny from first principles to fulfil the criteria for the numerous approving authorities.
In order to maximise off-site fabrication a component approach was adopted. Geometries and spacing were standardised where possible and a materials hierarchy established to complement the park landscape. this included galvanized steel to provide the required durability alongside stainless steel sections to fulfil requirements of design adaptability. the elements of the parapet (post, leaner, cycle rail, infill mesh) are provided (or removed) as the site conditions dictate. provision has been made for integrating LED lighting. Around 8 linear kilometres of this bespoke parapet will have been installed across the Olympic Park.
A key theme of the 2012 Olympics is that of sustainability. Every aspect has been studied to maximise use or reuse of structures and materials both for the Games and in Legacy. A prime example of this is the reuse of at least two galvanized steel construction bridges. These were initially built for access for plant and equipment but will now be used for the road race cycle circuit as part of the Legacy Velopark.
One of these bridges will actually be used three times: it has already been used as a construction bridge, it has been adapted and widened as a temporary crossing over Stratford High Street for pedestrians travelling to the Games from the Greenway, and once the Games have finished, it will be moved up the river Lea and adapted again and form part of the Legacy road race bridges.
Architect: Allies and Morrison Architects
Image: London 2012, Atkins, Allies and Morrison Architects