Promotion of the Profession: The Biodiversity Legacy of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Promotion of the Profession: The Biodiversity Legacy of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

BSG Ecology has been involved in the ecological design and monitoring of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park since 2008.  In late June 2022 BSG Ecology Director Dr Peter Shepherd joined other members of the design team, LDA Design Directors Neil Mattinson and Andrew Harland, to lead a tour around the Olympic Park. The outing was part of the itinerary for the London Festival of Architecture, and the audience included landscape architects, architects and planners.

The Olympic Park, designed for the London 2012 Olympics, is widely recognised as one of the most significant landscape projects for a generation. During the tour Peter discussed the key lessons learned from the project from a biodiversity and sustainability perspective over the last 10 years, and how the site could be future proofed to ensure it remained as ecologically valuable in the face of climatic change. The route taken started in the more formal southern part of the Park at the iconic London Aquatics Centre, then headed to the Great British Olympic Garden before moving on to the north park and the wetland bowl, the centre piece of the Olympic Park. From here the tour visited the Olympic rings before ending the walk at the wet woodland.

Attendees were keen to hear how biodiversity had been integrated into all aspects of the park design from the formal Olympic gardens through to the wet woodland habitat. Lively discussions ranged from the big decisions and issues, such as the importance of having a clear objective and vision for the Park and the vital decision to culvert the Channelsea Gorge to enable the wetland bowl to be created, through to the detail of how decisions were made on which species to plant. How the uncertainties were thought through was another part of the tour that interested the attendees, in particular the challenge of designing new wetlands when water levels were only based on models of likely water fluctuations and water quality and supply were unknown.

Peter Shepherd has been back to the Olympic Park regularly since it was completed, but had not seen the park since 2019 due to the Covid pandemic. He said “I was delighted and impressed by how well the habitats have continued to develop and mature. It was also a real pleasure to share our experiences with interested colleagues and to reflect upon the design decisions made by the design team. It was a particular pleasure to walk the park in the company of Neil and Andrew who led the LDA Design team so well.”

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