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Olympicopolis mark II: reworked plans for east London cultural hub revealed

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New images have been released of Allies and Morrison’s ’complete’ redesign of the ambitious new £1.1 billion ‘cultural quarter’ in East London, formerly known as Olympicopolis

Now rebranded East Bank, the huge scheme at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will provide new facilities for some of the UK’s major cultural institutions to transform the canalside area into a ’powerhouse of culture, education and innovation’ spread across three sites.

The East Bank project also includes 600 new homes, half of which will be affordable, in a quartet of towers of up to 24 storeys and a trio of smaller residential buildings. These lower blocks and three of the high-rises will be designed by Allies and Morrison. A fourth tower has been drawn up by RIBA Gold Medal winners O’Donnell + Tuomey.

Earlier proposals had to be ’rescoped’ by the planning authority the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and tower heights cut back after a row over protected views of St Paul’s Cathedral.

The BBC has been announced as the latest addition at the Stratford Waterfront site, where it will join proposed outposts for the V&A and its new partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, a 550-seat theatre for dance company Sadler’s Wells and a new campus for the University of the Arts’ London College of Fashion.

O’Donnell + Tuomey, which has been nominated for the RIBA Stirling Prize five times, is overseeing the V&A and Sadler’s Well buildings, while masterplanner Allies & Morrison is carrying out the detailed design work on the BBC and London College of Fashion.

Emerging Spanish practice Camps Felip Arquitecturia is also working on the project.

East Bank will sit to the north of Zaha Hadid Archtects’ aquatic centre, where the launch of the revised scheme was held this morning (5 June). Speaking at the event Sadiq Khan said the East Bank scheme would be the largest culture and education development the UK has seen since the 1950s.

Khan said: ’The true legacy of London 2012 will be complete when the park is not just known for its association with the games but for its communities, businesses and the cultural and education wonders we will experience here.

’I’m optimistic that together we can make the East Bank a lasting demonstration to the whole world what is possible when regeneration is done right, and for the right reasons.’

Olympicopolis: Before (2016) and after (2018)

Olympicopolis: Before (2016) and after (2018)

Olympicopolis: Before (2016) and after (2018)

Alex Wraight, partner at Allies and Morrison, said the scale of the redesign that would have to take place on the project ‘took a while to sink in’.

’In the end, we think we have got a much more cohesive scheme that forms a much clearer urban edge to the park and whilst it is quite condensed, there is an informality to it. 

The new masterplan increases the amount of land allocated to housing to allow the towers to be halved in height, Wraight explained.

’As a result, the culture and education buildings have been pushed together to form a terrace. We realised that this close contact was the way to increase collaboration [between the institutions].’

Eimear Hanratty, associate O’Donnell + Tuomey said: ‘It’s a really unusual situation for an architect to get a second chance at something. 

’Previously the design was these object buildings with lots of space around them and now that they are in a terrace it’s a much more London-like place, and because of that we think it’s much better.’ 

The Stratford Waterfront vision was first unveiled by the then London mayor Boris Johnson in 2013, who dubbed the scheme the ’Olympicopolis’. 

But the LLDC was forced to scale back the original proposals, which included two twin towers of 30 and 40 storeys, as a result of a spat over the impact on the skyline of another nearby project – SOM’s Manhattan Loft Gardens tower near Stratford station.

Conservation group Friends of Richmond Park called on London mayor Sadiq Khan to halt the construction of SOM’s 42-storey skyscraper, claiming it ‘destroyed’ a historic view of St Paul’s from the park.

In 2016, the scheme’s brick and glass designs were heavily criticised by leading architects Peter Cook, the late Will Alsop and Ian Ritchie, who described the development as ‘dull as ditchwater’, ‘under-amplified Vivaldi’ and ‘tried and tired’.

The government has committed to contributing £151 million to the project, with another £385 million to be contributed by the GLA.

A hybrid planning application will be submitted this autumn, with outline proposals lodged for the housing and detail plans for the cultural buildings.

Stratford waterfront masterplan

Stratford waterfront masterplan

  • 12 Comments

Readers' comments (12)

  • Those who have read their Corbusier with care should take heart from his advice in "The Home of Man" (written with Francois Pierrefeu). The translated version was published by the A.P. in 1958. The great charlatan advises: "Great blocks of buildings run through the town. What does it matter? They are behind the screen of trees". Our temperate forest trees can reach 30 metres and are fast-growing to begin with. Another clever fellow, Stuart Lipton, taught me not to spend much money above the first floor. Las Vegas is a good examle here. Things you touch are cast brass and cut glass. things you cannot are silicone and sand-rendered polystyrene. Plant big trees and splash cash onto the ground and first floors and the Public will forgive this total iconic illiteracy. After all, what have the unfortunate Public to compare it to after seventy years of deliberate Architecture denial? ..Deconstruction?

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  • Just feels so utterly disjointed in every way.

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