I had arranged to go on another Architecture Foundation tour, this time to the Olympic Park with two architects from Allies and Morrison, who have been involved with the project from its beginning when it was no more than a gleam in the eye of Ken Livingstone and Tessa Jowell – a moment, in retrospect, of national optimism when we were able to deliver a massive infrastructure project with relative effectiveness – and cross-party support. Of course, there were many others involved in the design of the park, including HOK turned Populous who designed the stadium and Hargreaves, the American landscape architects.
The key ideas behind the masterplan were: first, joining east London to west, encouraging housing and other development east of the River Lea; second, making the project sustainable, so that everything was designed with an eye to its future use. Much of what Allies and Morrison did was urban knitting, including the design of 35 bridges.
This is an aerial view of the park as was, with railway tracks, the River Lea and Yardley’s perfume factory:-
This is the site which will become the so-called East Bank, previously known (by Boris) as Olympicopolis:-
New housing south of the site:-
Zaha Hadid’s Aquatics Centre which has worn well:-
And the stadium:-
In the park, I felt, as I always do, that there is a horror vacui, as if we can no longer allow empty space, which was, and is, the essence of the other public parks, green fields without too many gizmos.
This is what it replaced – the industrial mess of Hackney Wick:-