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Outgoing Olympic legacy chief praised for ‘exceptional’ contribution to London

Olympics legacy chief Andrew Altman stepped down today amid praise for his ‘sophisticated’ vision in masterplanning the Olympic Park’s future

Games procurement advisor Ricky Burdett said Altman’s contribution was an ‘exceptional achievement’ and he would be ‘difficult to replace’.

‘[Altman] is one of the few planners in the world who recognise that high-quality design and social integration must go together’, said Burdett.

Burdett added: ‘His vision for the legacy plan for East London is one of the most sophisticated I have seen in any city for a long time. I really hope that [London Mayor] Boris [Johnson] will follow it through.’

In June it was announced Altman would step down as London Legacy Development Corporation chief executive following the games as the body entered a new phase focussing on construction.

The former Philadelphia deputy mayor was appointed to the role at the previously-named Olympic Park Legacy Company three years ago where he oversaw a radical overhaul of the 100-hectare park’s residential legacy masterplan. Practices who contributed to the project were AECOM, Allies and Morrison, KCAP, Witherford Watson Mann, Maccreanor Lavington, Panter Hudspith, Caruso St John, VOGT and West 8 .

Stephen Witherford of Witherford Watson Mann said Altman’s experience of working in the United States meant he understood the ‘necessity for thinking socially as well as spatially’ and placed social aspirations at the heart of the park’s planning and financial modelling.

He argued it would be a ‘real tragedy’ if Altman’s unique approach was not ‘sustained and seen through’, claiming the lack of a recent UK tradition in urban planning to support social ambition meant it was ‘painfully believable’ the programme would now seek short term maximum financial returns from the land value. (Read Witherford’s in-depth appraisal of Altman’s work below).

LLDC chair Daniel Moylan said Altman’s leadership had set ‘solid foundations for the park and put London further ahead in legacy planning than any previous host city.’

He added: ‘We are in a strong position to deliver a fantastic legacy as we now move to our next phase of the construction works to build Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. We are very grateful for his vision, energy and commitment to the project.’

Olympic Delivery Authority chief executive Dennis Hone will serve as the organisation’s interim chief executive before a successor is appointed.

 

Stephen Witherford on Andrew Altman

 

Visualisation showing Chobham Manor at the London Olympic Park, post games

Visualisation showing Chobham Manor at the London Olympic Park, post games

Andy Altman oversaw and encouraged the development of the Olympic legacy based on 4 key principles:

1. The Olympic park was not to be understood as an object of self-defining formal planning, but as part of a network of diverse open spaces in the lower lea valley to which it could connect and contribute. 

2. The new development on the park would be based on making provision for families through new neighbourhoods made from predominantly houses, maisonettes and larger flats. 

3. That these emerging new neighbourhoods would physically and socially connect with the deep rooted existing communities. New bridges, footpaths and streets would connect clusters of new and existing social amenities located at the perimeter of the park; places to share and meet people who you might otherwise not meet. 

4. That the new park would first and foremost be felt to be locally owned drawing on the knowledge and initiative of existing organisations to help shape and occupy it. 

Andy encouraged the development of a masterplan framework with an ambiguous boundary to tolerate and support greater opportunities for spatial and social interaction with neighbouring communities. He then brought in a series of people to help understand how you could nurture and sustain local ownership and to assess what the financial implications of this might be, in order to develop a financial model that could support this aim. 

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