2012 and Beyond:
Sustainable Masterplanning for the Olympic Site

December 3rd 2007

with architect BOB ALLIES of Allies and Morrison, part of the consortium masterplanning the 2012 Olympics


118 people attended Shape East’s 2007 Christmas lecture, which was sponsored by CABE, Cambridge City Council and the Cambridge Forum for the Construction Industry. The Eastern Region is the fastest growing region in the country, professionals, decision makers and residents alike are keen to capitalize on the lessons learned in development of the Olympic site. For the second year running our Christmas lecture was held at The Leys School, Cambridge in their RIBA award winning Music School, and thanks goes to the school and staff for their generous support and assistance.

Allies and Morrison are part of the team responsible for the masterplanning of the 2012 Olympics. London put sustainability at the heart of its bid for the 2012 Games, framed by the concept of ‘Towards a One Planet Olympics’. Bob Allies’s lecture explained how key to the design of the Games has been the development of a strategy for the long-term future of the whole of the Lower Lea Valley. After the Games the area will be transformed into the largest urban park created in Europe for more than 150 years.

For the past 400 years the Lower Lea Valley has been used for ‘dirty’ industries, from textile printing in the 17th century to petrol factories in the 18th century. Bone, varnish, soap, and tallow works, along with distilleries, engineering and chemical plants, have all been located there. Since the late 19th century around half of the site has been used for landfill, including a 100-year-old tip on the site of the new VeloPark.

About 75 per cent of the land has some form of contamination, such as petrol, oil, tar and heavy metals, such as arsenic and lead. The waterways that criss-cross the Park have suffered from years of neglect and the skyline was dominated by the 52 pylons carrying powerlines across the area.

In his lecture Bob Allies explained the fascinating strategy that concurrently prepares the site for the building of the iconic landmark buildings for the Games whilst simultaneously providing the foundations for the permanent sustainable regeneration of this run-down area of East London. For instance, forty hectares of land need to be prepared for the Games in 2012. The winning contractor will manage tree planting, create new wetland and other wildlife habitats, and install benches, lighting and drainage. They will also be responsible for building the temporary Olympic Concourse, which will link venues, entrances and parklands. After the Games the contractor will be in charge of removing the concourse and replacing it with open meadows and parkland suitable for the local community. New allotments will also replace the Manor Garden allotments that were previously located on the site.

After the Games the Olympic Village will become housing for a new community, incorporating a range of affordable housing options. The area will be supported by new schools, new utilities infrastructure, roads, transport, community and health facilities.

The Park will also host a mix of world-class sports venues and training facilities characterized by their flamboyant iconic design status and their ability to shrink. The Aquatics Centre designed by Zaha Hadid will reduce its capacity from a total of 22,500 seats in 2012 to 2,500 seats, with capacity to be increased to 3,500 for major competitions. Likewise the Olympic Stadium, designed to occupy a tiny footprint in relation to its 85,000 capacity during the games will reduce to 25,000 afterwards by removing the superstructure and leaving an internal portion of the stadium.

After focusing on the sustainability of the park in terms of the future uses of the area and venues, Allies moved on to discuss measures to make the development as environmentally sustainable as possible. He described a variety of features that are being added to the Park to minimise it’s carbon footprint, such as, a Combined Cooling and Heating Plant to provide heat and power to the whole site and a wind turbine. After the Games, at least 20 per cent of energy requirements will be supplied by on-site renewable energy sources.

Allies also highlighted the aim to transport half of the necessary construction materials to the Olympic Park by water or rail. Post-Games, building waste will stay on-site through its use as additional landscaping materials in the Legacy park. Not only the strictly limited car parking provision on-site but the close proximity of the Olympic Park to public transport connections, the creation of new footpaths and cycle routes will help reduce car dependency among the local community.

Allies concluded by reiterating that as the Masterplan develops it becomes increasingly apparent that the success of the planning for the 2012 Olympic park will be judged by its success as a thriving, inclusive and sustainable locality in the decades to follow.

For more information about The 2012 Olympic park, specific venues and the Legacy see