The excitement about the Olympic Park makes it possible to ignore the other achievements of the Olympics in terms of landscape and infrastructure. The Athletes’ Village was a major project in its own right, as this piece contributed by Vogt explains.
The public realm project of the Athletes’ Village (now renamed as East Village), was a challenge of speed and endurance. While there was considerable pressure to deliver the Village for 2012, the primary focus of the design team was the development of a Post-2012 Legacy Community that would contain residential, retail, office and educational facilities.
The East Village lies between the river Lea to the west and the existing residential area of Leyton to the east. The natural characteristics and urban context of these locations were used as landscape references to inform the design of open spaces and streetscapes. The specific geography of the surrounding natural and urban context, including topography, hydrology and native planting, informed the general composition of the different open spaces and streetscape environments, creating a cohesive district and a place of distinction.
Connecting this former industrial area to central London was one of the main design considerations. So, in addition to the strong links to the surrounding context, a central aspiration of the design was to develop a landscape that referred to the character of traditional London open spaces (alignments of plane trees, Yorkstone paving, green squares, etc.) and also to the English tradition of landscape gardens.
This pleasure landscape is also an engineered landscape the design of which was very much influenced by water management. Close collaboration between the landscape architects, ecologists and engineers was required to develop a landscape that would not only create a sense of place but also minimise irrigation and hard surfacing, recycle run-off water, create topographical variation, possess a diversity of structures and habitats, and make extensive use of native and naturalised vegetation throughout the scheme and wetland environments.
Rainwater from the site is collected and cleaned through different natural filtration processes and stored in large ponds, before a pumping station distributes it back to the Village to be used for irrigation. Technical structures such as the pumping station have been transformed into follies in the English tradition, disguising their purpose and incorporating other functions such as viewing platforms. In addition, circular arrangements of trees, in contrast with the surrounding planting, act as vegetal follies, enhancing the thoughtful balance between natural and manmade.
The layout of the wetland landscape was also influenced by traditional landscape gardens, with the positioning of the five ponds and planting of various types of vegetation designed to provide different experiences and events as one navigates the park. Pathways follow the undulating topography and, upon arriving at certain points, the structured planting creates viewing axes offering vistas across the wetlands. Vogt landscape also had an overview of the design of the buildings’ courtyards in order to bring consistency. Nevertheless, since the courtyards are private, they were considered as autonomous and introverted entities which needed to have their own designer, design and specific characters in order to create an effect of surprise, a contrast with the public realm.
Area: 150,000m² of open spaces
Client: Lend Lease
Team: Applied Landscape, Vogt Landscape, Fletcher Priest Architects, Arup, Biodiversity by Design, Speirs and Major Associates, David Bonnett Associates, Tim O’Hare Associates, Waterwise Solutions, BMT Fluid Mechanics, Gardiner & Theobald, RPS Planning / Quod Planning