Tell us about the early design brief
Our brief was to continue to work within the wider masterplan, for which we had previously secured a strategic planning consent to develop the residential district to host the Athletes’ Village for 2012, and also focus on its long-term role as a ‘new piece of city’ as a residential neighbourhood within London.
What inspired your design concept?
The great estates of London were an inspiration, which have been central to the growth and evolution of the city as a patchwork of distinctive neighbourhoods.
What challenges did you face along the way?
The biggest challenge was working at multiple scales and stages of design in parallel, in a manner that would never normally happen in the UK, combined with the huge pressure of the programme. Communication – graphical and verbal – was central to overcoming these issues, allowing all parties to understand the relationship between short-term objectives and the long-term vision, and to understand the interrelationships between parts and the whole.
- We received lots of helpful ‘advice’, often well-meaning and yet often contradictory. The sage recommendation that sticks in the memory is from one of the team who had worked on the Sydney Games: “Just remember that they won’t take it away from you”. His point was that the requirements of the Games must not overwhelm the ambitions for the Village, and that we should hold on to the long-term vision for the project as a part of London.
What about specific design challenges?
The scale of design and construction, all taking place in parallel, raised huge challenges in terms of the balance between coherence and variety. We wanted the Village to feel like a legible and familiar district of the city, defined by landscape more than any single architectural ‘object’. We needed to achieve construction efficiencies but to avoid monotony. These challenges were overcome by creating a strong masterplan framework prioritising landscape, allowing multiple architects and designers to work within a set of design guidelines and a complex and highly detailed set of briefing documents. Ongoing co-ordination and interface resolution throughout the design, planning and construction stages were also paramount.
How did it feel to be involved in such an important British project?
It was a huge privilege. The transformation of Stratford and the Lower Lea Valley has taken many years, and we have now worked on the project for more than a decade. During this time it has been a source of great pride to have helped bring forward huge changes and improvements that will benefit so many people.