OLYMPIC LEGACY SYMPOSIUM Review

by Hugo Hinsley, Director of Housing & Urbanism

4 October 2012

AA Lecture Hall, London

 

After the intense activity of this summer’s events, London’s Olympic adventure is at a turning point. Since winning the bid to host the Games in 2005 the focus of effort has been on preparing the site, constructing the venues and infrastructure, and managing the delivery of the events. For the bid, the International Olympic Committee had given more emphasis to the idea of “legacy” for this games, and the UK bid made a range of legacy promises. All the design and construction made reference to some aspects of legacy, as well as initiatives for health, sports and urban regeneration as other forms of legacy. The physical development area is now switching to legacy mode, and will come into use in phases over the next two years.

 

This AA symposium (the 3rd of a series on the Olympics) aimed to review the many implications of legacy, and which spatial planning instruments might support which aspects of a legacy. The panel was chaired by Hugo Hinsley – Director, AA Housing & Urbanism programme, and consisted of:

 

Outside contributors:
Kathryn Firth – Chief of Design, London Legacy Development Corporation.
Bob Allies – Allies & Morrison, masterplanners in the bid team, and the legacy team.
Deborah Saunt – DSDHA Architects, designers of part of the Olympic Village.

 

AA contributors:
Carlos Villanueva Brandt – Unit Master, AA Diploma 10
Lawrence Barth – Senior Lecturer, AA Housing & Urbanism programme.
Emilie Bechet – student, AA Housing & Urbanism programme.
Lionel Eid – student, AA Diploma 10

After presentations by Bob Allies and Kathryn Firth the panel discussed several topics. One was the tool of event-led planning, using an expo or major sports event as a way of directing investment and spatial planning within a city. In many cities this has led to conflicts of needs and resources, and to a closed-box development area, as in London’s case. However it can be an effective way of focusing both public and private investment on a development area, and of producing a greater scale and speed of change than would be possible under normal development processes. Another connected topic was the process of masterplanning or strategic planning – what framework of design control; what adaptability over time; what ways to negotiate between private and public investors’ interests. Olympics plans have particular challenges because of the need to provide space and resources for the games period, as well as quite different long-term needs after the games. A main topic in the discussion was legacy, not just as physical buildings and infrastructure, but also as generator of economic and social change. This raised points about exclusion, gentrification, housing resources, mix and density, and the value and design of public parks. It was clear that the strategy of using the games was better thought out than in most previous Olympics, but that it was very critical how decisions were made over the next few years. Balancing the interests of private investors and the regeneration potential for citizens in this rather neglected part of London will be very difficult.

 

The second part of the symposium presented student work which tested different arguments and spatial interventions, with implications for the Olympics process but not within the site. These projects of research and proposition were able to address strategic and political aspects of urbanism, as well as different ways of drawing and of making an argument for interventions. The presentations stimulated a lively debate about the value of design thinking, the limitations of actual project delivery, and the relationships between design teams, public client authorities and private investors.

 

After three hours we adjourned the symposium although there were still many points at many different scales to be discussed. The feeling from the symposium was that these points are inter-related, complex and fascinating, and that the AA should continue to provide a forum to debate the “legacy” in all its aspects, and remain engaged with the urban process in and around the Olympics site as it develops.

Zones of potential intensity
Image credit: Housing & Urbanism

 

For more information:

Olympic Legacy Symposium Lecture Video

Housing & Urbanism