The landscape architect-led Olympic Park is now open

The Olympic Park at Stratford – all photographs credited to Peter Neal
The Olympic Park at Stratford – all photographs credited to Peter Neal

The London 2012 Olympic Park is the most significant landscape architecture project for 150 years, creating 100 ha of much-needed new parkland. By adopting rigorous principles of sustainable development, the site provides a valuable and high profile example of how to restore and repair a neglected and highly contaminated urban area.

Several landscape architecture teams were involved in this vast project, but the British landscape architecture practice LDA-Design, with the American landscape architecture firm Hargreaves Associates, led the overall master plan and design. The creation of the Olympic Park is a triumph for the landscape architecture profession and demonstrates the breadth of technical know-how and creative vision landscape architects can bring to a project.

Arup and Atkins were the Landscape Engineers for this project and worked closely with LDA Design and Hargreaves. Tom Armour led the landscape engineering team for Arup and Alison Braham led the landscape engineering team at Atkins.

The project has received a great deal of media praise. “The real star of the Olympic site is the landscape design,” said Evening Standard critic Kieran Long. “It’s simply beautiful, with borders packed with mixed wildflowers, all blooming gaily thanks to the wet weather. Its hillocks and valleys, ordered by the waterways that run north–south through the park, make it a unique place, and give a flavour of what will be a wonderful public space after the Games.’

Other praise included Simon Barnes in The Times, who said: “This is a place designed for an open, clean healthy environment, a place where you can take a pleasant walk as well a finish a marathon.”

Oliver Wainwright of Building Design looked to the future. “It would be nice to think that once the garish Olympic flotsam has been blown away and the park reopens eighteen months after the Games, we will be left with one of the most magnificent public spaces to be built in London,” he said.

“This is Europe’s most significant landscape project for a generation,” said Neil Mattinson, Senior Partner at LDA-Design. “The London 2012 Olympic Park demonstrates a clear, focused master plan and development strategy working to an immoveable deadline, which has resulted in a beautiful, distinctive park. It helps to make the London 2012 the most sustainable games to date.

“It successfully demonstrates how a bigger vision for green infrastructure in a world city like London can be the principal driver for regeneration, creation of value and meeting low carbon targets. It demonstrates the central role that landscape architects, as master planners and designers, can play in leading the process.

“A significant part of East London has been rapidly and fundamentally transformed into a vibrant, sustainable park. It is a catalyst for wider regeneration and an exemplar for future restoration projects.”

Created over four years, work on the Park included:

· Extensive demolition and the decontamination of nearly two million tonnes of soil (the largest ever soil-washing operation in the UK)

· The creation of vast areas of concourse, spectator lawns and landscape features like the London 2012 Gardens and Great British Garden

· The largest wildflower meadow ever planted in the UK

· More than 4,000 semi-mature trees planted

· Wetland planting on a massive scale – more than 300,000 plants, including reeds, rushes and grasses grown from cuttings taken before construction began, created new wildlife habitats

· Regeneration of the rivers and canals that weave through the site

· Transformation of the River Lee into wetland, swales, wet woodland, dry woodland and meadow to form crucial sustainable flood defences

 

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