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The Olympics have put east London on the map

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From the sustainability editor: Increased awareness of green infrastructure is an immediate Olympic legacy, says Hattie Hartman

The London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics have come and gone, and some immediate legacies are already apparent. One of the most welcome is decent maps, both printed and via the wayfinding kiosks rolled out by Transport for London under the banner of Legible London. Clear graphics highlight local landmarks and include five to 15-minute walking radiuses. I had seen the maps in the West End, but was surprised to find them at the Royal Docks when visiting the Siemens Crystal last week. The Olympics have put east London on the map.

The Games also mark a defining moment in British horticulture by highlighting the impact of beautiful planting in the public realm. As Landscape Institute president Sue Illman writes this month, green infrastructure blurs the distinction between city and park, and engages people with the city in a different way. The shortlisted schemes for the High Line for London competition suggest how this approach might be implemented elsewhere in the capital.

Townsend Landscape Architects has orchestrated just such a blur at the Siemens Crystal. Designed and delivered in just 29 months by a team led by Pringle Brandon Perkins+Will with Wilkinson Eyre as architect, the Crystal presents a vision of a future whose environmental challenges are solved with technology, much of it the kind Siemens makes. But this intelligent corporate branding - not dissimilar to Coca Cola’s approach in the Olympic Park - does not undermine the building’s merits.

Along with the Emirates Air Line, it introduces drama to the western end of the dock, a welcome contrast to the nondescript housing either side. If the Crystal attracts the diverse audiences Siemens envisions, it will restore some of the activity that enlivened the Royal Docks when they were built. The nearby ExCel Center and The O2 regularly attract thousands so the potential for urban synergy exists.

Last week also marked Open-City’s Green Sky Thinking initiative, which highlighted many issues facing the capital. Of note is the challenge of sustainable energy provision by decarbonising the grid and potentially through district heating if the complexities of financing and phasing can be resolved. Meanwhile, further greening of London was unanimously endorsed by all.

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