With the exception of the area around the Olympic Stadium, all of the Olympic Park is open again.
The southern part of the Olympic Park has reopened, with landscape designed by James Corner, the landscape architect who worked on New York’s famous High Line and founder of James Corner Field Operations.
His work in the Olympic Park is also linear in nature, centring around a wide boulevard which forms, he says, ‘a perfect arc’. This boulevard, and the more intimate spaces to one side of it, have been created from what was a vast area of hardstanding needed for circulation during the games.
There are groves of smaller trees as well as the larger specimens. Photos by Lesley Malone
The original surfacing material remains, with areas carved out of it to accommodate trees and planting. ‘It was cheap,’ Corner said. ‘This was not a particularly healthy budget. We put a lot of money in the trees that form the promenade and maybe sacrificed certain other areas.’
The trees are largely oak, highly columnar pin oaks at one end of the boulevard, segueing into the more relaxed forms of red oak and English oak at the other end. The promenade terminates at Carpenter’s Lock where Corner has created boarded steps on either side of the water, intended for impromptu performances and events. Here he has planted Scots pines.
Oaks run along the ‘perfect arc’ of the boulevard
Scots pines at Carpenter’s Lock
This southern part of the park, which contains the Aquatic Centre and the Stadium, still being adapted, was always intended to be the busier and more urban environment. ‘This was conceived of as the pleasure garden,’ Corner said. ‘The client decided that it needed to be an active park. At the beginning there were to be a lot more paying attractions. As the project evolved it has moved away to more public uses.’
A helter skelter, seen here by the Orbit, is the first in a series of changing ‘attractions’ but there is less of a fairground feel than initially envisaged.
As at the High Line, Corner has worked with master plantsman Piet Oudolf to create beds of mixed grasses and perennials. ‘Piet is just such an exceptional authority and expert on perennial planting specifically in combination,’ Corner said, ‘what is put with what, and time-based effects. His expertise is unparalleled and we love to work with him.’ At present the planting is scarcely visible, and with no leaves on the trees it looks somewhat bleak. Corner says the planting will be ‘OK’ this year and should be magnificent from next year, with the grasses and perennials rising to four or five feet.
There is a lot of outsized furniture, another area where Corner was insistent that money was spent. ‘We learnt on the HIgh Line,’ he said, ‘that the more furniture you provide, the more people will love to use it. Everything has a bit of a theatrical scale to promote socialisation.’
Giant furniture should prove as much of an attraction here as on the Highline.
There are kiosks dotted along the boulevard which Corner believes are essential stopping points. The aim, he explained, is that they should have ‘a local flavour’ run by local cafes and other providers.
Suspended lights along the light of the boulevard are metal spheres with sharp circles cut out of them to cast patterns on the ground at night. With the park open 24 hours a day to pedestrians and cyclists, the aim is that it should be appealing to all, busy – and generate some money.
The lights will create dramatic effects at night