Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park London: a review of the landscape architecture by Robert Holden and Tom Turner

This video review of the QE Olympic 2012 Park, by Robert Holden and Tom Turner, comprises a discussion on 29th June and video footage taken on 29th and 30th June. Mainly a review of the master planning, the two landscape architects spent too little time on the park’s often-very-good detailed design. Our fundamental point is that ‘the landscape planning is much better than the landscape design’. The landscape planning includes the opening up of the River Lea in the northern section of the park, the habitat-creation strategy and the park’s excellent links with its hinterland. The landscape design is dominated by vast pedestrian concourses which will be busy during events but will resemble unused airport runways on every other occasion. There is some good garden-type planting but it has not been used to make ‘gardens’: it is used more like strips of planting beside highways.
The designers were EDAW/Aecom, LDA Design with George Hargreaves.
Comments welcome.

5 thoughts on “Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park London: a review of the landscape architecture by Robert Holden and Tom Turner

  1. Tom Turner Post author

    The below comments appeared on Reddit:
    interesting analysis. I work right next to the park, so spend a fair bit of time in it – the airport comparison is a good one for some parts of it.
    I think my main problem with the place is that it doesn’t feel very cohesive. It’s really several parks in one – the ribbon between the stadium and Westfield; the gardens tucked down on the other side of the stadium; the forthcoming canal park; and everything north of Waterden Road. The North London Line cutting through the middle doesn’t help matters, and I’m still baffled why they couldn’t have done something more sympathetic with the HS1 tunnel portal. Cover it up, maybe?
    But they’re right, it does have much of a “it’ll be nice when it’s finished” quality. I just hope there’s enough money in the pot to fix the bits that don’t work and keep the bits that do at their current standard.
    I got to the bit where the said ‘and the width of the walkways hasn’t been reduced’. It they have been reduced tremendously. I presume they’ve left them wide enough to cope with a full football stadium disgorging.
    What a pair of miserable wankers.
    Edit: The guy on the right, Tom Turner, is slightly less miserable. He sounds like he’s genuinely trying to make constructive criticism. But the guy on the left, Robert Holden, sounds like he’s trying to find failure even where there isn’t any (saying that a structure looks like an “airport terminal in Kazakhstan” because it has shiny curved glass!). His comments say more about his insecurities than the park.
    I live next to the Olympic Park & I spend quite a lot if time in there and cross it often to get over to Hackney Wick.
    Simply put, it’s lovely. Very ’21st century’ in terms of its design and there are lots of places for kids to play, lots of very quiet spots where you can sit in peace etc etc.
    I would describe those detractors as ungrateful c*nts rather than wankers, but maybe that’s just me. Name another successful post-Games Olympic Park? I’m waiting…
    I like the bit around the stadium (although the area around Orbit is a little barren), but everything on the other side of Westfield is a soulless wasteland that looks exactly like Milton Keynes.
    It also has an unbelievably shit name. The 2012 Olympics was a showcase for British citizen’s talent and sporting achievement, they could have named the park after anything related to this and yet they go and name it after the queen, who has fuck all to do with achievement, indeed is the contrast of competition. I’m sure Boris was jizzing in his pants at the elitism of it all. Tory tory hallelujah. Wouldn’t have happened under ken…

  2. Christine

    We seem to have become enthusiastic about your idea for the sculpture at Olympic Park and want to replicate it in Sydney in a slightly abstracted form? [ http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/giant-cloud-sculpture-for-george-street-leaves-critics-and-public-split-20140729-zy767.html ]

    From the experience of the successful transformation of the Expo 88 site in Brisbane to Southbank Parklands it would seem that an events venue needs to be re-thought post-event so that it has place in the everyday life of a city. Was there much post-event planning/re-planning with Olympic Park.

    It reminds me that perhaps a visit to Housebush would be more appropriate for me to experience an Olympic site with a less central location within a city 14 years on. [ http://www.sydneyolympicpark.com.au/ ]

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Visually, I like the proposed Cloud Sculpture and am less enthusiastic about the proposed Pavilion, by Hany Armanious. It is close to the ‘turd in the plaza’ category.
      Generally, I would be happier with abstract art if it were tied in with belief systems. This is a problem for artists for artists who have ‘abstracted’ themselves from beliefs and from clients. And it is not a problem with an obvious solution in an age when society seems weak on collectively held beliefs. Maybe artists should attach themselves to philosophers or individuals who would like to have their ideas expressed visually. Artists and architects do this to a degree (eg with post-structuralist ideas) but since the philosophies tend to nihilism the resulting images also tend to nihilism.

  3. Christine

    The cloud sculpture is already being ‘sent up’ so to speak.[ http://cdn.mamamia.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Statue-via-ReidParker_-380×286.jpg ] So it certainly captures people’s imagaination! There is more to be said for the model of the sculpture [ http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-hcpmKodanGc/U9g_IfCig5I/AAAAAAAAUBk/J0j4quVFXp0/s1600/clover+1st.jpg ], not that this photograph really conveys the impression of scale which is its best feature.

    The Pavilion is said to bear close resemblance to a sculpture of a milk crate already in Melbourne.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *