Here in London, the Games are in full swing, and are hard to avoid. Perhaps easier to miss is the fact that plans are also well underway for the new public park that will be created in the wake of the Games. Indeed some key planning milestones were passed only last week.
So it is a good time to look beyond the sporting spectacle and imagine what the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (to use its full name) might be like in years to come. This is a project I have been deeply engaged in since before Christmas, when the London Legacy Development Corporation became a client of mine. Here are some extracts from an article I wrote for Sports Management magazine that gives an overview of how play offers will feature in the Park. The full article – with lots more detail on the design philosophy, the approach at the different sites, and the design teams – is available to read online.
“The character of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will change dramatically from South to North. The South Park [due to open in July 2013] will be urban in feel, with the aim of creating a 21st century pleasure garden… The obvious parallels are with spaces like London’s South Bank.
“By contrast, the North Park [due to open in Easter 2014] is more naturalistic, with rolling green landscapes, newly created wetlands, and planting that speaks to the River Lea Valley’s riverine ecology.
“What will families find when they come looking for places to play in these two parts of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park? In the South Park, the emphasis will be on threading playful offers throughout the site, so that as much of the public realm as possible is ‘playable’… to invite families to range across the site, rather than feeling obliged to stay in a single ‘play ghetto’…
“The North Park – just a brisk ten-minute stroll up the Lea Valley – will have a very different feel. Here [as I have already described] the plan is for a highly naturalistic play space that will allow children to build dens, dam streams, search for bugs and get mud under their fingernails…
“The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park… is set to show beyond doubt that playful places can be adventurous, distinctive, lively and beautiful. While a minority of parents may need to adjust their expectations, I am confident that the vast majority –children, young people and everyone else who visits – will respond with enthusiasm.”