Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Transformation: A Landscape Legacy

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London is a sustainable and contemporary urban park of international significance. This short film consists of interviews with some of the key players of the design and build of the Park, capturing the role landscape architecture had to play in it’s delivery.

The Landscape Institute was one of the Olympic Learning Legacy Partners. To promote the work in developing and designing the Olympic Park they released a series of videos featuring interviews with planners, architects, engineers, ecologists, hydrologists and landscape architects who helped in the creation of the park.  An earlier post featured an interview with Tom Armour CMLI from Arup on the role of the Landscape Engineer in the Olympic Project. Click to view: Olympics Landscape Legacy: Landscape Engineering the London Olympic Park.

Recently staff and students on the post-grad Landscape Architecture courses here at Kingston University were introduced to the continuing maintenance taking place as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is transformed.  The group was taken on a tour of the site by Alistair Bayford, Park Manager and general manager at the Landscape Group. The Landscape Group provide landscape maintenance and assisted cleaning of the whole park in an alliance with Balfour Beatty Workplace, who cover facilities management.

By July 2013 – less than a year after the Games, the first venue re-opened – the Copper Box Arena, with the north of the Park also opening to the public.  In April 2014 the south of the Park re-opened, along with access to the Lower Lee Valley’s historic waterways.

DSC_0816 Image: Ales Seitl

In the north Park the parkland was designed as an ecological system with sculpted landforms providing the structure for sustainable water management and biodiversity programmes. Bio-swales convey rainwater slowly from the concourse through a series of check dams and wetland areas before finally reaching the river system. Feature meadows, woodland planting and wet woodland, provide a patchwork of habitats.  The lasting legacy of the Olympic Park has unfolded since the Olympic Games in 2012 as transformation works have been completed.

DSC_0781Image: Ales Seitl

The south Park by contrast has a more urban feel. The London 2012 Gardens created a dramatic first impression to the thousands of visitors who entered the Park through the principal entrance from Westfield Stratford City. . The south Park featured hundreds of metres of restored river valley green-space and provided a parkland setting for the permanent Olympic Stadium and  the Aquatic Centre.  Over two thousand trees were planted to create the Games-time Park whilst over three hundred thousand aquatic plants contributed to the UK’s largest ever urban river and wetland planting project. The Park design pushed horticultural boundaries with a pioneering approach to planting creating display meadows.


  Image: Ales Seitl

 The design of the Park minimises the use of energy and water with only minimal irrigation and mostly just in the establishment phase. Native species have been selected throughout the Park, not only for their biodiversity value but also for their ability to withstand a changing climate.


Image: Alistair Bayford, Landscape Group

Innovative sustainable drainage techniques convey rainwater through the parkland rather than discharging it rapidly into the river system. The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park meets biodiversity targets by creating more than 45 hectares of new or improved habitat, transforming a largely derelict and contaminated site into an area of species-rich grassland, wet woodland, reedbeds, ponds, trees and scrub, brownfield habitat and park and garden habitats.


Alistair Bayford, Landscape Group: Waves of Stipa tenuissima at The Orbit

During the Kingston University visit Alistair Bayford demonstrated techniques used to support the sustainable nature of planting throughout the park.  Tree-gators – slow release watering bags designed to efficiently and effectively irrigate new tree, shrub, or evergreen planting.


For further details on the park transformation see the publication  – Creating the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park: Post-Games Transformation


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