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


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


Readers' comments (12)

  • How did Allies & Morrison manage to design two neighbouring buildings, the BBC and UAL ones, which look as though they are by two completely different architects who point-blank refused to see what their neighbour was building on the adjacent site?

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  • This is a shocking proposal for what is supposed to be one of the grandest building developments for institutions in London in the 21st century.

    Shame that the Ole Schereen proposal putting 4 different organisations under the same roof has not been put forward - http://buro-os.com/olympicopolis/ as this is a much bolder design in my opinion and has the wow factor.

    Rather than the cluttered up current proposal which seems to be an afterthought considering that A+M are top notch Architects/Masterplanners with strong supporting architects surely it could have been done better and create the wow factor in the Olympic Park

    My marks for this would be a D- as it looks horrid and all bunched up due to more space required for residential schemes which helps to pay for it. It needs to go back on the drawing board and come up with a much better design.

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  • Bruce Buckland

    Still awful.

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  • Richard Saxon

    This is seriously disappointing; a clutter of competing shapes which make their architects look bad. Put your egos away, people, and design a bit of streetwall with each use fitted together.

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  • MacKenzie Architects

    something to offend everyone I guess
    -blame the client, sounds like he, she or it was the one with no vision

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  • Mr Pevsner

    These designs are dull, uninspiring and an embrassment to the profession. Its as if the brief was “bad 60s mnodernism”. The buildings by AM particularly stand out as being poorly conceived and show no promise as pieces of architectiure.

    Great disappointment.

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  • To be fair it looks like a piece of any random western city built in the last 30 years or so. Not hugely offensive but equally what's good about it? I'm sure that each building will be designed impeccably in detail and each have merits etc. though overall the impression is that nobody sat down and planned out what was to be achieved in the bigger picture. Large developments like this are few and far between and are opportunities to progress how a city is formed. This looks on the face of it to be just a repetition of things that have been done before, but maybe in an economy where it's very difficult to build anything that is good enough.

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  • If you look at the smaller buildings individually they are actually quite interesting. However they are competing with one another completely overshadowed by the monstrosity that is the UAL building in the middle.

    There is so much wrong with it it completely takes away any merit of the smaller buildings. Its too big, the massing makes it seem squat even though its 14 storeys tall, not to mention its just unbelievably boring. It looks a copy and paste facade from any of the residential blocks being built in Stratford at the moment by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, PRP, Glenn Howells and the rest. It makes me want to cry.

    These buildings will date terribly badly, just walk around Statford now and look at buildings built in the last 10 years. People will look back in years to come and wonder what the hell were we thinking.

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  • I wonder if Allies & Morrison and O'Donnell + Tuomey have considered extricating themselves from this slow-motion car-crash before it's too late?

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  • Totally agree with previous comments especially to the lack of cohesion between each building. A single vision needs a single co-ordinating architect it make it work. These are dreadful lumps devoid of any humanity and lacking any identity of the content. But hey, this part of London is one of the most depressing areas to drive or walkabout, so the buildings do fit in that regard.

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