From Industrial Wasteland to Urban Idyll: London’s Olympic Park Landscape

Camilla Ween (LF 2008) and John Hopkins, former Project Director responsible for the external areas at the Olympic Development Authority, reflect on the challenges and achievements of restoring the natural environment in the Lower Lea Valley Olympic Park.

When London put together its bid for the Olympics, then-Mayor Ken Livingstone insisted that the Lower Lea Valley was the right place, even though this area presented a monumental challenge. It had some of the worst indices of deprivation in Britain, it was utterly polluted from centuries of industrial activity, and it was traversed by gigantic electricity pylons. It was grim.  The River Lea and the associated watercourses were dead.

Now it has been transformed into a wondrous wetland landscape that is both beautiful and works as an integrated water and flood management scheme. The story of how this  happened is a story of political will, respect for community and history, and a vision of sustainability, livability and urban beauty.

Read the essay by Camilla Ween and John Hopkins

John Hopkins is currently visiting professor of landscape architecture at the Universities of Pennsylvania and Greenwich. He has just completed The Making of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park with Peter Neal to be published by Wiley later this year, which tells the story of how the Park was conceived, planned, designed and delivered on time, within the budget of $9.3 billion, and the lessons learned. He is currently working on his next book, which will set out a new paradigm for ecological economics, planning and design based on One Planet Living and ecological footprinting.

 Camilla Ween (LF 2008) is a regular contributor to the LOEBlog.

All photos courtesy of John Hopkins

Fellowship Year: 2008
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