London’s Olympic park reopens this weekend—see how it’s grown

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Will the mayor’s dream of a new “Albertopolis” in Stratford come true?

By Javier Pes. Web only
Published online: 04 April 2014

The mayor shows The Queen the site of east London’s “royal” park in 2012

London’s Olympic park reopens tomorrow, 5 April, allowing visitors a chance to again enjoy the view (smog permitting) from the top of the 114.5 metre-tall Arcelor Mittal Orbit tower designed by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond. The park in Stratford, east London, closed for its transformation into a cultural and sporting “hub” after the Games in 2012, partially reopening with a new royal name last summer.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is due to be joined by Prince Harry today on the eve of the official reopening of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The mayor is keen that the area also becomes a 21st century “Albertopolis”, the equivalent of the cultural complex in west London that includes the South Kensington museums and Royal Albert Hall, which were legacies of the Great Exhibition of 1851.

The Victoria & Albert Museum has signed up to his vision, and could stage big exhibitions in a kunsthalle-type space in the park, subject to funding. We broke the news in February that the mayor has also approached New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation with a view to a Guggenheim London outpost, to help create the critical mass required for a major cultural destination in the capital. The Tate politely declined the mayor’s invitation.

In the meantime, at the ten entrances of the 560-acre park visitors can see how the ten History Trees replanted by the artists Ackroyd & Harvey for their Olympic commission have matured. Each tree supports a steel or bronze rings six metres in diameter. Among other works of art on the site Heather and Ivan Morrison have created Cross and Cave, a sculpture in one of the children’s play areas.

Visitors will also be able to enjoy landscaping by New York-based James Corner Field Operations, which helped turn sections of the High Line in Manhattan into a green oasis. In the Olympic park’s south plaza it has led the design of a tree-lined promenade and pleasure garden on a strip of land between the main stadium, Arcelor Mittal Orbit and the Zaha Hadid-designed Aquatics Centre.

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