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Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

March 15, 2014

Greetings from Europe! Our first stop on our “Spring Break 2014” trip was London. We were only there for a couple of days, and on this trip wanted to see something a bit beyond the normal tourist monuments. To have a target (and since we’re huge Olympic fans), we set out to find the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford on the East End. Much of the facility is currently under renovation in a planned effort to integrate it all, land and buildings alike, into the surrounding community (a master plan that will take about 25 years to complete).

Building the Park was meant to not only provide facilities for the 2012 Summer Games, but also to rehab the entire area — land contaminated by industrial waste was cleaned up, new bridges were built across the River Lea, and the area was generally made habitable again.  Much of the land is destined to become and remain developed, but part of the northern end of the Park has been restored to wetlands, which will be a great asset to the area — both for people and nature.

One building that has already been reclaimed by the community is the Aquatic Center, designed by Zaha Hadid. It’s become a community pool (well, pools — there are two swimming pools and a diving pool, plus a gym and other facilities). We were able to take a peek inside, thanks to a nice woman at the front desk, and it was lovely.

Outside isn’t so bad, either. The Center is quite striking, and even boasts a green wall. Nearby is the River Lea and a grove of trees. Although much of the area is torn up and under construction at the moment, we could see how what was once largely industrial waste land would one day become a lovely (and hopefully well-used) part of London. There’s no doubt that any large development project brings its fair share of concerns, criticisms, and controversies, but large projects built with long-term planning in mind (even if the original use of the project was a short-term event), and that incorporate natural features, can enhance the quality of life for a city’s residents, both human and non-human.

Aquatic Center, QE Olympic Park, London, (c) MMD 2014

Aquatic Center, QE Olympic Park, London, (c) MMD 2014

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, (c) MMD 2014

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, (c) MMD 2014

Aquatic Center, QE Olympic Park, London, (c) MMD 2014

Aquatic Center, QE Olympic Park, London, (c) MMD 2014

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Muriel Harris permalink
    March 15, 2014 1:21 pm

    Really laudable project! Thanks for the pics and explanation of the project, but how does a city restore a wetland? And will there be other green spaces?

    • March 23, 2014 12:59 pm

      Wetland restoration is a tricky thing — it’s a whole subfield in the broader field of ecological restoration, as the hydrology of the area needs to be addressed along with vegetation, soil, etc. More and more wetland restoration is taking place, which is a good thing, but it’s still an inexact science and restored wetlands are generally not as complex as natural ones. But basically, the city would hire professionals to do the job (there are firms who do nothing but this!). I’m not sure if there will be more “natural” green spaces created in the project, but certainly the whole thing is in a park-like setting.

      • Muriel Harris permalink
        March 23, 2014 1:51 pm

        Thanks, that’s helpful, and it’s encouraging to know that there is wetland restoration going on. I wonder about that as I see more and more land being cemented over, something that our town encourages, in the name of “economic development.”

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