Is West Ham United FC’s promise to maintain a running track around a permanent football pitch at the Olympic Stadium after the 2012 Games really viable, asks Alex Maxwell?
Neil Ainsworth, design director at the Frank Whittle Partnership, said: ‘The logistics of retaining the athletics track between a football pitch and the spectator seating is impractical. Fans will be a minimum of 35m from the playing surface rather than 7-8m in a bespoke solution.
‘In hindsight, the future occupancy of the stadium ought to have been contracted prior to the design and construction of the stadium, this would have allowed a bespoke solution to be created linked with a long term operator and may have avoided the subsequent need for substantial demolition/re-working.’
Philip Johnson of Populous, which is understood to have been working on the West Ham bid, said: ‘The stadium was designed to be flexible enough for a number of different uses, whether football or other community activities.’
Michael Hall, a partner of FaulknerBrowns Architects, said: ‘Athletics and football are not great bedfellows. It was always going to be politically expedient to retain athletics at Olympic Park. West Ham may have won the day, but there is no doubt that this is something of a fudge in terms of a sustainable legacy. There may be a need to provide some marriage guidance further down the line.’
Mark Boyle, a director at Ramboll, said: ‘Given the amount spent on the supporting infrastructure, perhaps the bigger question here that is not being asked is why the design brief for the stadium and it surrounds at the outset did not have a strategy for easy conversion to football after the games. The clear loser will be the fans.’
Dipesh Patel, founder of Pattern Design, said: ‘As a citizen of London [the ground-sharing] is a problem that has to be made to work. I’m not sure of the real solution, or if anyone else does. With this in mind, our practice has just built a model of the stadium to explore solutions that could work for any future uses. There are no answers yet but we’ll see in a few weeks.’
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