Ruminations on architecture, from Ken Allinson
Eight Week Pop-Up at Old Ford …
May 20, 2012Posted by on
Bridget who? She’s an ageing and famous English artist known for he ‘optical’ productions and, to tell the truth, they don’t interest me that much. Nevertheless, it was interesting to come across the entrance to her studio when prowling around a place nick0named ‘Fish Island,’ a place adjacent to the Olympic Park (on its west side and now, believe it or not, designated as a Conservation Area).
It’s industrial and was cheap ‘n’ cheerful. Artists moved in a few years ago and, predictably, the developers have followed, especially give the Olympics and the general regeneration policy in the area. And so, it’s changing around there …
The nicest part of this area is called Old Ford Lock – a lock on the River Lea, which runs from somewhere way out north of London, down through the Lea Valley to the River Thames.
I can’t even recall why were were there. I hate going anywhere near the Olympics Park … On the other hand, this fringe area is sane, human, where real life is … Yes, I know its odd to refer to such a place in such terms, but the Olympics hype drives me mad.
Anyway, here we were, seeing what new works had taken place in order to sanitise the area for the odd Olympics visitor who might stray over in this direction, and we discovered that one of the warehouses next to the Lock had already been tackled.
OK, the rents will go up, many of the artists will be driven out, etc., but at least there was wit to this particular redevelopment. To me, it was a breath of fresh air (yes, again, I know, a weird thing to say about this part of London )… but London is very short on decent architecture.
The Planning Application told me that: “The site itself is dominated by a three storey Victorian stable block and a mid-twentieth century warehouse extension. Within the site, a triangular courtyard contains various informal lean-to structures and a storage building. The site fronts the River Lea downstream of Old Ford Lock and has a direct viewline to the Olympic Stadium. … The application seeks planning permission for a temporary change of use to a sui generis hospitality venue for the duration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The capacity of the venue is proposed for up to 3750 people over a period from 0800 to 0400. Works to the buildings involve the restoration of historic structures and some works to facilitate new openings in buildings for access and viewing.
3750? ‘Hospitality venue’? Well, OK, I don’t know what that means, but it will have “340 staff at any one time and it is expected that the venue will attract a maximum of 6,470 visitors per day.” And it seems there will be a 24hr water taxi (‘Water Chariots’) from the Limehouse Basin, on the Thames (a 40minute ride). No, don’t rush to book: it will cost something like £90 for that ride.
Meanwhile, I quite like what the developers are doing with the building. Who’s the architect. We think it is Bob McDonald’s firm RMA. Certainly, they did all the planning applications.
So what should we get excited? Well, I’m bored with all that ‘bog project / star architect’ stuff. London is supposed to be a creative city, but you wouldn’t know it by chasing up its architecture. However, I do admit: this project is a peculiar mix of to-down / bottom up thinking. The scheme is meant to be a magnet for Olympic Park visitors, but sounds as if the intention is going to be a much longer life as a late-night destination. Hell, whatever: I just like Bob’s retention of this absurd projecting steel structure… And then he told me that the whole thing is an eight-week pop-up just5 for the Olympics period!