After a government report earlier this month found that the London Olympics had brought a £10-billion-boost to the UK’s economy – effectively breaking even with the initial investment after just one year – the architectural community has begun to question whether the built legacy of the games will be worthwhile in the long run.
Guardian critic Olly Wainwright is scathing about the Olympic park, particularly the developments at the edge of the site: “At every junction of this roaring A-road sprouts a steroidal tower, each clad in ever more lurid colours, transforming the street into a gauntlet of competing ambitions. Looming over adjacent council estates, these brash totems are a monument to Olympian greed… Strip away all the festive colours, though, and you’ll find that these are actually mean-minded silos of tightly packed one-bedroom flats, mostly sold overseas for buy-to-let.”
Find out more about Wainwright’s investigations, and other opinions of the Olympic legacy, after the break.
Although Wainwright is also critical of East Village, the housing area within the park (“There’s little sense of human scale”), he does spout positive about Kathryn Firth and Eleanor Fawcett, calling the two architects in charge of design for the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) a “convincing duo”. The pair are aiming to reconnect the Olympic Park to the surrounding area and develop neighborhoods which have more in common with the rest of East London:
“They bring a welcome voice of sanity after a disastrous failure of planning intelligence about how to make a coherent place out of this ragbag of parts,” he compliments, but warns “while their words and drawings may be reassuring, there is still precious little evidence that their hopes will come to fruition.”
Elsewhere, BDOnline has sought the opinion of two experts with differing views: Director of Oppidan Design Sowmya Parthasarathy praises the fact that “two hundred hectares of land has been cleaned and freed from a tangle of pylons, pipelines and scrapyards. More than 30 new bridges and under-passes have repaired a fragmented Lower Lea Valley.”
Parthasarathy goes on: ”While the visible icons of legacy are impressive, more modest projects in the wider area, propelled by the Games, have arguably been even more successful.”
On the other side of the argument is Michael Edwards, Senior lecturer in the economics of planning at the Bartlett. He argues that London’s Olympic bid, won in the economic boom but implemented during the recession, means that “the legacy is thus scarcely detectable in the flood of destructive social change.”
He points out that the UK government’s austerity-based economics meant that “ambitions for affordable housing were scuppered by pressure to reduce public borrowing”.
However, he does concede that the Olympics were a lifeline to the construction industry during the worst years of the recession: “in the event, the Games kept builders and designers afloat through years which would have been bleak”.