Legacy Public Landscape

image and memory of former land uses of the site. ... Extensive trials were carried out to produce special seed mixes to fl ower on site on a scale not...

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London 2012 Olympic Parklands and Public Realm: Legacy Public Landscape


London 2012 Olympic Parklands and Public Realm

Legacy Public Landscape Text by Neil Mattinson and Gavin McMillan Images by LDA Design 1. Fantasticolgy Meadows formed by annual seeding laid out as an abstract image and memory of former land uses of the site.

CITYGREEN #6 A Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology Publication

The Park in numbers is 6,200 trees, 9,500 shrubs, 63,000 bulbs, 250,000 wetland plants, 766,000 grasses and ferns, together with 650 bird and bat boxes! Altogether they represent over 48 hectares of new habitat.

Touted as Europe’s most significant landscape for the next 150 years,

construction in March 2012, partly because of its sheer scale, it being

the London 2012 Olympic Park and 2.5-square-kilometre Paralympic

the largest urban park development in the UK in the last 100 years.

Park formed the centre piece for the world’s most sustainable Olympic

The heavily contaminated and derelict site had been previously

Games to date. It created a dramatic setting for the Olympic Games’

occupied by battery and match-making factories, and had been

venues that enriched all visitors’ experience.

both a post-war munitions dump and municipal rubbish dump, which required substantial cleansing and a restorative programme in order

As the largest new urban park in the capital since the Victorian era, at

to be fit for its purpose.

102 hectares large, it has acted as a catalyst for regeneration in East London. This project demonstrates that landscape architects in their

Over the past four years, some 250 acres of new park space had been

key roles as clients, master planners, designers, and engineering team

created from this former heavily industrialised landscape. The Park in

leaders can champion the process and how green infrastructure in a

numbers is 6,200 trees, 9,500 shrubs, 63,000 bulbs, 250,000 wetland

world city like London could be the principal driver for place-creation,

plants, 766,000 grasses and ferns, together with 650 bird and bat

value-creation, and addressing climate change.

boxes! Altogether they represent over 48 hectares of new habitat.

Landscape Design from Concept to Details

The hour-glass shape of the site naturally divides the park into

After planning approvals were secured and earthworks had

a strongly ecological and green northern half and a more urban,

commenced, the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) sought a fresh

entertainment-focused southern half, intended to grow into a “South

approach and appointed LDA Design and Hargreaves Associates in

Bank” in the east of the capital. The two halves are connected by

2008 to take the parklands and public realm from a good design to

over five kilometres of improved riverbanks including the previously

great design. The collaboration brought together the best talents of

canalised River Lea.

the UK in LDA Design and with Hargreaves Associate’s experience of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Park that was markedly the first “Green

The Parkland emphasised and resulted in a reduction of the concourse


and increase in park land, without adversely affecting crowd movement, safety, or comfort. With the shallower river valley profile,

Underpinning the early design concept was a vision not only to stage

the park becomes more accessible, both visually and physically.

the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in London, but also of

The shallower gradient enabled a graded route to be created that is

the lasting legacy that this prestige will deliver. Many challenges had

accessible to all. This made the park more usable and offered greater

to be overcome before the master plan for the park could begin

opportunities for biodiversity.



London 2012 Olympic Parklands and Public Realm: Legacy Public Landscape


Sustainability The Park formed the backdrop to the most sustainable Games to date and has seen one of the most contaminated brownfield sites in London transformed to sustainable green space. Sustainability has been integral to create venues, facilities, and infrastructure for the Games that would leave a lasting social, economic, and environmental legacy for London and the UK. To achieve its sustainability goals, the ODA set itself and its contractors working on a comprehensive range of targets that were embedded in systems, processes, tools, and the culture of the project. The key achievements included: • 63 percent (by weight) of the construction materials were transported to the Olympic Park by rail or water. • 98 percent of the material from the Olympic Park's demolition work was reclaimed for reuse and recycling. • More than 650 bird and bat boxes were installed across the Olympic 2. View of the North Park looking towards the temporary Basketball venue and with the Athlete’s the Village beyond. 3. View of the Spectator Lawn and Temperate Americas section of 2012 Gardens from the entrance bridge looking towards the Orbit. 4. View from the Orbit down to Western Europe and Mediterranean section of 2012 Gardens and bespoke seating units.

Park, including within bridge structures and on the “brown roof” of the Main Press Centre. Six key areas of objectives included: • Energy • Water • Waste • Materials • Biodiversity • Environmental Impact

5. View south west from the Orbit over the Concourse to Fantasticolgy Meadows. 6. Visitors enjoying the Spectator Lawns in 2012 Gardens Park.

The determination to make 2012 the greenest-ever Olympic Games meant that energy consumption was to be an important part of the sustainability strategy to reduce carbon emissions. Every aspect






from the shower systems used in the Olympic Village to the use

New habitats comprise wet and dry woodland, species-rich grasslands

of renewable energy and lighting optimised the opportunities for

and meadows, brownfield habitats that reflect the urban past, ponds,

efficient water and energy use.

reedbeds, and marsh. Specific habitat features or wildlife installations have also been designed into the Park to support the key species

Approximately 100 hectares of open space was designed to reduce

identified within the Olympic Park Biodiversity Action Plan. These

the risk of flooding in the river valley and enrich the biodiversity of

include, among others, otters, kingfishers, water voles, bats, swifts,

the area. Some 5,500 homes have since been removed from the

sand martins, amphibians, reptiles, and a range of invertebrates. Over

“At Risk” Register for potential flooding as a consequence of these

4,000 semi-mature trees and 250,000 wetland plants have been

sustainable actions.

added, as well as the wildflower meadows—resulting in 45 hectares of new habitat created so supporting a broad range of insects, mammals,

Further, birds, bats, lizards and other species were relocated,

and birds.

demolished materials re-used, over a million cubic metres of soil cleaned on site in “soil hospitals”, over 90,000 truck movements

The previously canalised River Lea has also been transformed into

saved off-site, and state-of-the-art, sustainable technologies ensured

a three- dimensional mosaic of wetland, swales, wet woodland, dry

and embedded in venues.

woodland, and meadow, together forming an absorbent flood-control measure and ensuring that no spoil has had to be removed.

Designing for Biodiversity The landscape architects worked closely with the ecologists, planners,


and landscape engineers to create designs for habitat and species

Wildflower meadows provided a dramatic backdrop to the parkland

that would deliver the Biodiversity Action Plan objectives, whilst also


meeting the varying wider objectives for the Park. This meant creating a park that would have the visual delight and meet the expectations

Extensive trials were carried out to produce special seed mixes to

of a Games display, supplemented by its Post-Games Transformation

flower on site on a scale not seen before. One of the main challenges

to meet the varying objectives of a public park.

was ensuring that the annual flowering of the meadows could be delayed from the usual June to late July to coincide with the timing

Ecological experience and expertise assisted in designing, creating,

of the Games.

and then managing habitats. The architects’ knowledge of the ecological requirements of the key species has been vital to achieving

Not only were these meadow swathes highly attractive to visitors,

workable and effective design solutions in a challenging and high-

they also helped to provide variation to the landscape structure,

profile setting.

which in turn helped to drive the biodiversity on-site. The aim was not to model meadow stereotypes but to ensure that the result woud be


London 2012 Olympic Parklands and Public Realm: Legacy Public Landscape

Plan of the London 2012 Olympics Parkland




8. Evening view across a stand of agapanthus in the Southern Hemisphere section of the 2012 Gardens to the temporary Water Polo venue and with the Aquatics Centre beyond. 9. View of North Park looking towards Velodrome.


London 2012 Olympic Parklands and Public Realm: Legacy Public Landscape

exciting to look at as well as good for diversity. The seed mixes used

leaves national benefits in culture, sport, volunteering, business, and

were all fit for purpose—quality seeds, less than two years old.

tourism. The landscape was fundamental not only for the Olympics but also the long-term future of the area, so that people will enjoy it

Early procurement of trees and plants had to be ensured, in order

long after the Olympic Games.

to create as much time as possible for the landscape to mature by the start of the Games. Alongside the less formal Parkland landscape,

The Park has now become a network of living green that offers links

the London 2012 Olympic Gardens provide a more structured

between the communities to the east and west and combines a

journey through the discovery and development of cultivated plants

vibrant mix of recreational and educational activities in an attractive

over the past 500 years and the roles they play in the biodiversity

setting. The open space will become even more accessible after the

of cities. Developed into four zones, the Gardens feature structural

Games via a network of canal towpaths, footpaths, and cycleways.

strips of plants from Western Europe, Temperate Americas, Southern Hemisphere, and Temperate Asia.

To be named the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from 2013 on, the Parkland will extend outwards to existing green spaces, creating

Post-Games Transformation

a network that will reach out to the Hackney marshes in the north,

One of the unique selling points of the London Olympic bid was

to Victoria Park in the west, and to the Greenway in the south.

a commitment to deliver regeneration. Thus, temporary venues,

Post-games, the canals and waterways of the River Lea will be

structures, and areas of concourse will be removed to make way for

cleaned and widened, and the natural floodplains of the area will be

permanent parkland, designed to fit with the legacy master plan for

restored to provide a new wetland habitat for wildlife for birdwatchers

the wider area. This will complete the transformation of one of the

and ecologists to enjoy. All the world-class sports facilities will be

most contaminated brownfield sites in the capital into a stunning new

adapted for use by sports clubs and the local community as well as

park for East London.

elite athletes. New playing fields sitting alongside these facilities will also be adapted for community use.

The Park was designed to provide world-class landscapes and facilities during the Games and, with minimal cost and effort, transform into

The stunning transformation of one of the most contaminated

the post-Games park that will continue to provide valued habitats

brownfield sites in the capital has given local communities better

within a vibrant, attractive, modern, and sustainable park that can be

access to high quality green space and recreational facilities. Through

enjoyed by people as a place to relax, play, and exercise.

high quality and creative design, a clear new green character and identity have been created. East London has been fundamentally

Post-Games, the two areas of the parkland have different aims with

transformed from a neglected brownfield into a vibrant, sustainable

the northern part focusing on the ecology and habitats and the

park, which will have a positive impact on the area for years to come.

southern park being a focus for events and activities. Ultimately, for future generations the Park will be an exemplar for

Legacy Design

future restoration projects—demonstrating that buildings may come

As mentioned, from the outset the vision was to create a sustainable

and go but green and grey infrastructure can lead and frame the

legacy for London and the UK. Social, environmental, and economic

sustainable development of cities.

legacies will enhance the lives of generations to come as the Park




10. View enjoyed by thousands of visitors to the Games from the main Park entrance bridge over the 2012 Gardens. 11. Along the Southern Hemisphere section of the 2012 Gardens with the sculptural Halo Lights punctuating the skyline. 12. Evening view of the floodlit Stadium from Southern Hemisphere section of the 2012 Gardens with Kniphofia (Red Hot Pokers) in full bloom in the foreground.