The Landscape Guide

London Olympic City (Park) 2012

Note to would-be visitors: the Olympic Park site was closed off to visitors with an 11-Mile Blue Fence in 2007

Park City Stadium Arenas Cycling Olympic Village Hockey Precinct Plan 2005 Photos

In 2005 London was asked to host the 2005 Olympic Games, centred in the Lower Lea Valley. It is a wonderful opportunity.

Insha'allah (God willing), intends to monitor the park's development from start to finish. The adjoining map is clickable and takes you to images of the site in the summer of 2005. We have reasons for optimism and reasons for pessimism concerning the eventual quality of the garden and landscape design. [Commentary is provided by Tom Turner except where noted].

Reasons for optimism about the Olympic Park

  • The Olympic park design which won the bid was by a very competent firm of landscape architects with an excellent track record in urban landscape design: EDAW inc.
  • The quality of the existing site is truly remarkable. It is rich in water, vegetation and industrial artefacts. [See photos]
  • Though still described, rightly, as 'London's backyard' the creation of a regional park in the Lea Valley was first proposed, by Abercrombie, in 1943. Much has been done, though budgets have always been tight.
  • Michael Heseltine has no involvement with the project. He initiated the UK Garden Festivals and the Millennium Dome - none of which left a good landscape 'after the show'.

Reasons for pessimism about the London Olympic Park

  • There is a long history of landscape and urban designers being sidelined on major projects. Because most of the money is spent by architects and engineers these firms tend to grab power for their own projects, to the detriment of the overall conception.
  • The most recent festival park project in London, by the Millennium Dome on the Greenwich Peninsula was disastrous. For the years 2000-5, the site was bleak, open, empty, hard-surfaced and unsustainable
  • Only two previous Olympic sites have resulted in the creation of good park landscapes: Olympia itself and Munich - and one (Barcelona) resulted in the brilliant regeneration of a city centre.

It is the Barcelona example which should be followed in London, not the Munich example. The Lea Valley already has masses of underused park space - and no urban space of any quality. The area now described as London's Olympic Park should be renamed the London Olympic City - and every design team should be required to prepare plans for an urban after use (or legacy) before any design is approved. Let the Olympic City be interlaced with greenspace and sports facilities, by all means, but DON'T LET IT BE A PARK WITHOUT A CITY.


London 2012 Homepage


The 11-Mile Blue Fence, by the Grand Union Canal