Designing the London Legacy: Squalid Olympic Park designs

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The pedestrian underpass should have no trash can or grime

To think that the UK’s top architects are working on the most soulless, unrecognisable houses imaginable.

It’s all part of their bid to secure London’s Olympics Legacy.

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Stooped architect Julia Barfield, of Allied London, has been charged with designing 28 housing projects for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Her design process started with a list of specs for all of the glitzy Olympic venues, including the palm-tree-lined park, which the games played host to between 2012 and 2014.

From there, she added to the list in various fields: sports and heritage facilities, transport networks, schools and leisure centres.

Then, she took out any of the artificial, high-tech looks.

“It’s like mud,” she says. “We want to create spaces that are local to the site, not just anywhere else.”

Enter the Berlin-based architects Sauerbruch Hutton.

Known for their S-class apartments and ambitious residential developments around the world, they’ve also devised a neat plan for the city’s Legacy Park, which lies above the original Olympic Stadium.

Hutton Global Architecture views life through a ‘viewy lens’ and combines urban activity with nature in a community park (Image: David Andrews/Sauerbruch Hutton Architects) View: ©David Andrews/Sauerbruch Hutton Architects

They never actually set foot on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – but they sent a team of international designers along, including the French duo Gilles Pues and Raymond Kuster.

“It’s very important for this work to explore the close relationships between private and public space, between space and mass, and between the visible and the invisible,” says an employee of the French architecture duo.

They’ve turned the very public Olympic Stadium into a park, with broad grass banks and golden grass circles.

They gave it a “flowery infusion” and now the park is planted with local trees.

In China, there is nothing quite as obvious as a public space that’s merely shaped and exposed.

Take the Pasir Ris residential tower, which is located in the outskirts of the capital.

Instead of a screen of small balconies, there’s a large stack of balconies that enclose the views.

The foreign architect David Coode, who designed it, says the building is designed to fill a void.

“For us, it’s a short trip between the security detail office and the cafeteria. But this is hardly ‘shady’, compared to the building opposite,” he says.

Image copyright BBC One, Headline News/Sauerbruch Hutton Architects Image caption Designers use geotagging to display the building’s ‘private’ spaces

Local architect Fred Cohen, director of Hoeter Architectarum, has designed a private home surrounded by a garden on the same site as the apartment.

“You’re on a gold star if you can find some nice things in there,” he says.

“I always try to put as much intelligence into the design that can be captured with geometry. But really, when it comes to the final cooking – that’s always done by the client.”

In the UK, the government has pledged to slash the number of unfit properties within the three-year Olympic Legacy Development fund, which could change designers’ minds.

“I’ve been told, ‘We’re willing to change our direction if you really want to bring back public life’ ” says Ms Barfield.

She points out that the only problem is that many of the completed homes have been popularly voted for by Londoners.

“But they would have been popular had they been done by a different designer,” she says.

She can imagine public opinion reversed after homes built under her scheme are unveiled, and these may well come under attack from competing architects.

“I hope we get a lot of stick,” she says.

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