Tell us about the early design brief
The brief called for the refurbishment and upgrade of a 2.5km section of the existing Greenway and a raised linear park on top of the Northern Outfall sewer that would cut through the Olympic site. The new route would provide significant walking and cycling spectator access to the Games and also become an important legacy route across the Lea Valley.
What inspired your design concept?
Our design inspiration was drawn from a number of areas: from the existing dramatic topography of a raised embankment intersecting with tidal rivers, waterways, railways and infrastructure; from the existing character and value of a semi-wild landscape within the city; and from the magnificent Victorian ambition and quality of Joseph Bazalgette’s extraordinary Northern Outfall Sewer.
Our idea was to re-use material from the industrial area that was demolished to make way for the London 2012 Games, and enrich the new landscape with memories and material from the past.
Did you know…
- We used a variety of concrete surface treatments for the sewer, including a seeded finish formed from waste ceramics using recycled coloured aggregate. We always enjoyed the thought that London’s discarded avocado bathroom suites were livening up the route of its main sewer!
What challenges did you face along the way?
Notable challenges along the journey of the project included complying with extremely exacting accessibility requirements, working with significant strategic operational infrastructure, co-ordinating with adjacent projects in Games-time and beyond the Games and resolving conflicts between cyclists and walkers! We also fought the case (and won it) for the Greenway to retain an identity independent of the Olympic Park.
What about specific design challenges?
Our design introduced variety of pace, rhythm, narrative, repeating elements and singular moments – articulating a linear project spatially proved to be a real design challenge. Indirectly responding to the hidden infrastructure beneath was also interesting: the design subtly embodies a narrative and references to materiality but does not directly refer to the sewer – Thames Water Utilities Ltd were very sensitive about overt ‘celebration’ or drawing attention to their asset (the smell does give it away on some days though!).
How did it feel to be involved in such an important British project?
Ours was a relatively small project, but one of the first to start in 2007. It wasn’t completed until 2011, so we had an exhilarating ringside seat to the whole construction process. It’s a huge privilege to have been a part in delivering one of the most ambitious projects for London in our generation.