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LONDON'S OLYMPIC IMAGES COULD JUST AS EASILY APPLY TO BARCELONA OR BEIJING

EDITORIAL

Selling utopias is a highly visual business. From garden cities to gleaming towers, graphic images have always played a role in gathering support for visionary ideals. Yet the Thames Estuary remains determinedly elusive. Despite its headline status, it is a shadowy presence in the public imagination, an abstract void of policy decisions and development potential as opposed to a physical reality. It is too easy to forget that this is an extraordinary landscape, marred and scarred by industry, but also blessed by an eerie beauty which at times borders on the sublime (see Landscape Study on pages 25-39). This makes it too simple to consign the entire area to the neutral meaningless catch-all category of 'brownfi eld land'.

The study represents an attempt to develop a strategy which recognises and builds on the diverse character of this extraordinary landscape.

Like the different visions put forward by Richard Rogers and Terry Farrell, it is a vision in need of momentum. The rush to build for the 2012 Olympics provides the catalyst which is so badly needed. But with it comes the thirst for quick-fix place-making favoured by governments under pressure. The images being used to sell London's Olympic plans convey the ubiquitous cappuccino culture freneticism which could just as easily apply to Barcelona or Beijing.

At the most recent meeting of the London Assembly's Planning and Spatial Development Committee, Farrell was at pains to point out that the most successful new developments are those which grow out of existing communities.

But this is a matter of psychology as much as of geography. It is one thing to use the presence of existing development as a blueprint to roll out dwellings according to a predetermined plan. It is quite another to draw on the specific nature of a particular topography and community to create an architecture which is considered, site specific and unique.

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