Behind the Image

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Lionel Eid, George Garofalakis, Rosie Garvey, Alice Raggett and Emad Sleiby

A semi-wild landscape: One of the most appealing aspects of the Queen Elizabeth Park is its abundance of high quality, natural environments that have been made available for public enjoyment. Despite being in such close proximity to Stratford, a major urban centre, the park is distinctly wild in character.

An engineered environment: Deliberately understated infrastructure makes the park highly accessible without diminishing its wild and rugged character. These design interventions are embedded in the landscape and support a network of continuous routes through a vast area that was once unavailable to pedestrians.

Industrial heritage: The grittiness of the River Lea is reflected by the mirror bridges which celebrate the industrial heritage of the locks and waterway network.

Sculptural elements: An ongoing programme of public art offers a platform for local artists and provides an evolving and playful visual landscape for visitors

Flexibility: The park’s infrastructure was designed to be adaptable. After the games, many bridges were reduced in width to suit the decreased footfall.

Modest buildings: The spectacular sports venues of the games once took centre stage within the park. Today, more modest residential buildings, such as those at Chobham Manor, provide a more comfortable and human-scaled edge to the park.

Maintenance: The London Legacy Development Corporation is currently responsible for managing the park but this will change once separate councils take over its maintenance. It will be interesting to see how coordination between Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets is executed and whether the quality of the public realm will vary across these areas.

Activation of the Lea Valley: Much of the Lea Valley was out of sight and out of mind for ordinary Londoners but the riverside has now been activated through popular boat tours. Often, these are led by people who grew up near the Olympic Park and who have welcomed its transformation.

URBAN DESIGN 154 Spring 2020 Publication Urban Design Group

As featured in URBAN DESIGN 154 Spring 2020

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Almost a decade after London hosted the Olympic Games, we look at how the largest new piece of city in the capital is maturing into a place of its own.

In each issue of Behind the Image, one of our contributors visits a contemporary public space from around the world. The photography tries to reveal an alternative perspective on a familiar precedent, famous space or place. These images illustrate how the public space works in practice: exploring its features (designed and unintended), and the way it relates to the surrounding context.