Today I visited London’s Olympic Village, the 27 hectare residential area within the Olympic Park where the athletes and officials will be accommodated during the period of the Games.
All but one of the blocks are four-sided with large communal areas at the centre, each one with its own character – some have interesting seating areas while others have winding paths and sculpture at their centres – and these are raised above ground level to accommodate car parking below (although these basement areas are currently filled with offices for officials during the games). There are a couple of interesting design twists – all the blocks are slightly different architecturally (with one in particular sporting bas-reliefs following a request from the Mayor) and many of the outward facing lower floors comprise multi-level town houses with their own front doors and small yards facing out onto wide pavements that run around the site. Some of the flats also have what are being called ‘winter gardens’ – large balconies in line with the building facing both inwards and outwards that can either be enclosed with glass walls or open to the elements, depending on the season. The final block, which has a wedge-shape to fit the constraints of the site, has a rather striking full-height atrium which you can see in the image below, and to make up for the fact that it doesn’t have a communal area has a roof garden with some spectacular views over the Olympic Park and beyond.
As they are currently in what is euphemistically called ‘Olympic mode’ the blocks only contain accommodation at the moment – there are no kitchens, and additional walls have been inserted to turn each flat and house into a series of bedrooms – enough to accommodate the 17,000 athletes and officials during the Games. By mid to late 2013 however, they’ll have been remodeled, turning them into 2,800 homes. In anticipation of it becoming a new community (with a new postcode, E20, straight from the script of Eastenders!) there’s also a new school, the Chobham Academy, which will specialise in the performing arts and will be able to accommodate nearly 1,800 students from 3 to 19 years of age, and there’s also a rather dramatically designed polyclinic.
I didn’t really know what to expect from the Olympic Village – looking at it from a distance it looks a little forbidding, but up close I can see what they’re trying to achieve – they’ve even taken the trouble to do extensive landscaping, including planting an amazing number of mature trees – 3000 in all. One particular area even has plum, apple and pear trees that residents will be free to harvest…
Just in closing, London Living, who will be promoting the new East Village after the games, are running a very short competition for two free spots at the pop-up Stewhouse restaurant this Thursday night, 19 January. You’ll need to get your skates on however, as they’re picking the winner at some point tomorrow – you can enter here by answering the question “What would you do with more Time, Space and Choice?”. Good luck!
For the curious, the rest of the photographs from today can be viewed here online.