On Friday 25th Aug 2017 I went to the New London Architecture breakfast briefing at the Building Centre in Store Street, off Tottenham Court Road. Despite the early morning start, and that we’re in the holiday season, over 160 people attended. It was a really interesting event.
Hannah Lambert, of London Legacy Development Corporation, introduced the topic of Olympic Legacy: 5 years on.
As somebody who lives within walking distance of the QE Olympic Park, I’m well aware of the great job that’s been done here. Locals can swim in the former Olympic Pool for £5 a time, and you can wander into the Velodrome on any day of the week and see it in use. Hannah walked us through some of the achievements: 2013 North Park opened to the public, 2014 South Park opened etc. But the achievements are best understood by simply walking through the park. It’s become a great place for locals to hang out.
This run down part of London has been smartened up, many new jobs and homes created and plenty more are on the way. The V&A, Sadler’s Wells and the London College of Fashion will be bringing culture to the formal part of the park.
Meanwhile there has been an organic explosion of art and culture on Fish Island and Hackney Wick, to the west of the Lee Navigation. This needs to be nurtured, and not quashed. I’ll be polite and say that the plans for Fish Island spark a lot of controversy.
The overall winner of the New London Awards is Wickside, E9 by BUJ Architects and Ash Sakula. It is a development on the former McGraths waste disposal site, which runs along the northern side of the Hertford Union Canal from the A12 (Blackwall Tunnel approach) to the Lee Navigation on the edge of the Olympic Park. Canny Ash, of Ash Sakula, and Freddie Heaf of BUJ Architects were at the breakfast briefing to present their proposals. There are some good images here and if you keep clicking the right hand arrow you’ll come to some drawings showing green roofs. Canny Ash explained that they are trying to create a linear park to join Victoria Park to the Olympic Park. She told us how building surveyors did not like green roofs or natural growth attached to buildings, and told how they had managed to find a manufacturer of cattle troughs who could make giant containers for trees and natural growth. The green roofs and pocket parks will allow the flat owners to expand their living space out of doors, and will help them become more sociable with their neighbours. This was a fascinating presentation. Architecture has certainly moved on.
The next presentation was by Ken Okonkwo of Haworth Tompkins Architects about the Fish Island Village development, which will run along the south side of the Hertford Union. Ken pointed out that there was no living space on the site to start with. These and other adjacent developments are going to deliver a huge number of new flats. It’s just as well Hackney Wick station is being upgraded!
It was great to see that Neil McDonald was included on the panel discussion. Neil co-founded Stour Space, an artist led Social Enterprise. It is the artists who make this part of London a vibrant, young and fun place to be.
Neil said that social interaction, goodwill, and security of tenure are difficult to quantify and put a value on. He asked, “Is the workspace affordable to the end user, or the operator?” And, “What type of business gets the affordable?”
One part of me thinks that the massive overdevelopment of flats adjacent to the Olympic Park looks like a feeding frenzy not seen since the days of Railway Mania. But on the other hand I’m well aware that this was a run-down area which had (mostly) ended up with low value industry, and not much housing provision.
We should not forget what has been a achieved in this area, as my two photos below show.
Below is a 20 sec video of one of the many pop-up events that take place on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
The exhibition of the New London Awards 2017 is on until 4 October 2017. It’s free and open every day except for Sundays and 26-28th Aug Bank Holiday weekend. I highly recommend a visit.
After leaving the breakfast briefing I deliberately got off the Central Line at Liverpool Street and travelled down to Stratford on a brand new Crossrail train. The shiny new, futuristic, East London has won me over.