(Un)Urban-Finally made it to QEOP

Today we were finally able to explore the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (QEOP) and surrounding Hackney Wick area we had heard so much about, which after a week of bad weather at UCL was a nice change. The powerful art community of Hackney Wick is obvious and very visible even in the 3 minute walk from the station to Stour Space, our work base for this week.

Our day began with a talk at Stour Space, followed by a long awaited talk of QEOP. The tour first took us from the Fish Island entrance of the park, along the river and past the Copper Box Arena to the Velodrome. On entering the park, the huge amounts of space became very clear as we were taken through a huge concord area filled with very little people/activity. This immediately got us thinking about our IROKO challenge, and potential open spaces within the park which could be used more actively by the public.

While walking along the river I found it crazy to find out that almost all of the trees in the entire (560 acre) park had been driven in on the back of the truck. This was pointed out as we passed an old dark tree standing alone at the side of the river. This isolated native tree against the young imported vegetation really gives you a sense of the extent to which everything in the park is new, everything is perfect and everything has been put in a place for a purpose. The graduated river banks is just one example of the promotion of green space in the park, encouraging the development of marshlands along the river.

We visited the R-Urban Mobile Garden which sat in the north western part of the park, opposite East village, on a site due to be developed on in December. We were given a tour of the Mobile Garden site and its activities which, in such a new area where people maybe haven’t yet had the chance to meet and interact with their neighbours is a great project and gives people in the surrounding area an opportunity to form a community. The activities of the Mobile Garden give locals an outlet to interact with nature a bit as well as a space to learn new skills and pass on their own skills and history to others, at the Civic University and Wick Common Shop. ***

After lunch the group began to think about how we would organise ourselves this week. We identified that the key areas to focus on in order to tackle the challenge we have been set by IROKO are:

  • Identify activities/facilities which elderly people would like to have in the park
  • Locate an ‘open space’ in the park which could be used more actively
  • Develop an idea for a way in which IROKO’s activities/resources can be beneficial to the elderly people’s wants/needs
  • Specify what is required from LLDC in order for IROKO to implement this idea

Towards the end of the tour, it was felt among the group that the culture of the park was almost ‘missing’. We felt as though there wasn’t much within the park which made you feel like you were in London, that the park could be picked up and dropped in any other urban city and fit right in, that the park isn’t yet delivering the Olympic legacy which was promised. This became evident to me on returning to the Hackney Wick station, and again observing the fierce artistic culture which is present within the community and is so loud, even within the 3 minute walk from Stour Space to the station. Comparing this loud culture to the clean, purposefully placed, new structures within the park, it became slightly more understandable as to why people in the surrounding community may feel that the park ‘isn’t for them’.

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