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Stratford City 2012

As you're probably aware by now London has won the Olympics. We will be doing a series of articles including stories on the actual stadium and the ground breaking engineering in it, Zaha Hadid's designed swimming facilities, and the massive new transport interchanges planned in due course but what about the rest of the area around Lea Valley in Newham which has been serendipitously zoned for heavy development for years as part of the package in respect to the forthcoming Eurostar route which is due to cut there providing excellent transport links with both London and Paris?

Local Borough, Newham Council had the foresight to campaign for the route to come through Stratford because of the tremendous possibilities it could bring to the area. It would have been going ahead irrespective of the Olympic bid, but the combination of right time and right place should add a powerful catalyst to make it even more commercially attractive for the developers.

The developers have amended part of the Richard Rogers designed masterplan to incorporate the village but as a whole the plan is mostly unchanged. Construction is due to start in 2006 when the fitting out of the rail 'box' (a kilometre long open hole that accommodates the Eurostar line and others) and the station building is completed with completion of the 180 acre site scheduled for about 2017.

The first phase to be built will be the retail quarter, which effectively gives the whole area the quantum of a metropolitan centre, creating capacity akin to the Bluewater shopping centre in Essex containing 100+ retail units with 3 major anchor department stores.

The business quarter is due to follow this (aiming at approx 35,000 jobs) and the residential quarters containing about 5500 new homes which will be constructed phase by phase although much of this will be for existing residents.

The integration of the retail quarter will be plugged into the existing town centre, which is just the other side of an arterial rail route that Eurostar will be running on. A framework involving all of the stakeholders old and new has been agreed and points towards a radical makeover of the old centre so that it's not 'left behind' and shown up by its younger, brighter neighbour.

This in turn means that the old Stratford town centre (primarily made up of a 60's shopping centre) will be further intensified and re-masterplanned, leading to higher densities ergo possible high rise buildings on that side of the tracks as well. There are currently a couple of old 60's office blocks (about 15 stories and 10 stories respectively) above the shopping centre but it can be expected a great change will be made to banish the ghost of sixties modernism from the area.

The whole of the Stratford City site is being designed so that it 'stitches' in with adjoining areas which historically have not been connected - Town Centre district (roughly to the southeast), Carpenters district (southwest), West Leyton district (northeast) and Lea Valley district (northwest).

In terms of space and statistics there will be massive levels of development on a scale not seen in London since Canary Wharf started up in the late 1980s.

450,000 million square metres of new office space.

145,000 square metres of of new shopping, leisure and social facilities.

4,500 new homes and 1,000 new residents. 30% of homes will be affordable (shared ownership, key worker and social rented) which will be largely built in the West Leyton area.

2,000 new hotel rooms

A new 900 pupil secondary school, and a primary school for up to four forms of entry in a new education campus

A primary health care centre and an NHS walk-in centre

It's estimated 29,000-34,000 new, permanent jobs (up to 25,000 in financial and business services, 6,000 in retail and 3,000 in leisure, entertainment and hospitality) will be created as well as 15,000 jobs in the construction phase.

There was never permeability across the site as it used to be an old railway marshalling yard but these plans see four new quarters being created and all linking up in the middle. Effectively Stratford City will provide the missing link between these old areas that were cut apart by the railway yard and create a major new piece of city into the bargain.

The biggest towers planned for Stratford City are the Lea Valley towers which will sit in the Lea Valley District next to the international station and only a matter of minutes from Kings Cross making the commercial zone instantly desirable to new tenants.

The design of the towers is currently illustrative as opposed to actual, for masterplan purposes, and to date no detailed architect has been appointed to work on them although they are expected to come in at about 160 metres in height. The two main ones are tentatively labelled as residential and hotel respectively sitting in the Lea Valley District overlooking the planned Cascade Park and its water features.

There will also be a large number of midrise buildings particularly around Cascade Park each side of the but the difference of height between those and the main towers will be substantial.

As well as large chunks of urban development, advantage will also be taken of the existing marshlands in the area and the close proximity of the plan will see exploitation of the green-space and new public parks constructed. These will sit along the banks of the River Lea overlooked by the towers and this is where the Plan Voisin influence really kicks in.

Modernist French architect, Le Corbusier in 1922 came up with a then radical idea for Paris which involved high-rise apartment blocks lining the River Seine with urban parkland in between to create an airy environment everyone in those towers could enjoy. Plan Voisin was to be the centre of the of Paris city linked to the outskirts by road and rail links.

In Richard Rogers Stratford City, modernism is certainly alive and well but whether it can overcome the problems that other failed attempts such as Cumbernauld in Glasgow have suffered from in the past and become a successful centre with a long term future remains to be seen.

There are already indications from projects such as Stratford Gate that this is helping to create a self sustaining demand by other developers as Canary Wharf achieved with adjacent developments in the Isle of Dogs, and with its central location in the transport infrastructure not to mention the heavy integration between districts and large amounts of social mixing in the housing should help negate problems the sixties designed areas suffered and prove the success of complexes like the Barbican and London Wall in the City of London can be recreated making an attractive modernist living and working space that will prove popular with individuals and companies alike.

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