Tell us about the early design brief
We were commissioned to design the public realm and streetscapes of the East Village, which was used temporarily as the Athletes’ Village for London 2012, and then completed as a new district in East London. The project consisted of seven public realm spaces, streetscapes and was built in co-ordination with thirteen development plots.
What inspired your design concept?
A central aspiration of our design was to develop a landscape that referenced the English tradition of landscape gardens as well as being an environmentally sustainable and biodiverse landscape.
What challenges did you face along the way?
The Stratford City development was initially conceived in 2002 as a development and urban regeneration project on the former Stratford Rail Lands, which are north of Stratford town centre in east London. When London was awarded the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Athletes’ Village was assimilated into the Stratford City masterplan and the initial development time frame of 15 to 20 years had to be accelerated to provide accommodation for the 17,000 competitors and team members at the Games.
While there was considerable pressure to deliver the Village for 2012, our primary focus was the development of a post-2012 legacy community that would contain residential, retail, office and educational facilities. Delivering such a large and complex project also meant extensive consultation with a range of different parties and constant mediation. The global financial crisis also impacted the project and we had to consider budget cuts, value engineering and additional consultation to make cost savings and resolve the design.
Did you know…
- A working 1:100 model of the key landscape areas allowed the design team to quickly test and address any issues that developed. In many instances, design meetings were held around the model, and options were tested with input from the consultant team as well as the client. This allowed the resolved options to be visualised and approved on the spot.
What about specific design challenges?
Engineering a functioning wetland environment while creating a biodiverse landscape was a technical challenge. The area can store and recycle run-off water and establishes a relationship between the Lea Valley and the Athletes’ Village development. In order to treat run-off water for re-use, we developed a wetland containing four types of wetland environment.
The landscape was structured around a sequence of vegetal and architectural follies, viewing axis and pathways, which, together with a complex engineered filtering system, create a unique ‘natural artificial’ wetland. What started as a technical challenge for the team became a source of inspiration for the design of the public realm and informed a number of the design strategies used throughout the Village.
How did it feel to be involved in such a large and important British project?
Being involved in such a strategically important development for London was a unique and challenging opportunity. As a team we had the rare opportunity to work on such a large scale project by working with a great number of architectural practices in a compressed design and construction timeframe. It was exciting to be part of this close collaboration, which also aimed to be contextually responsible by creating a sustainable and ecologically diverse landscape.