A sustainable legacy for the Olympic park

27th January 2014

The below article was originally printed in New London Quarterly, Spring 2014.

Living as I do in the ‘Far East’ (of London) I witnessed at first hand the transformation of the Lee Valley through the Olympic preparations, the huge success of the games and the continuing impact on this area of London.

Walking in the Olympic park recently, it struck me just how much the environment will change as the future phases of building unfold. At the northern extremity of the park there is a confluence of motorway flyovers straddling the Lee where the ‘Folly for a flyover’ popped up not so long ago. When you drive into London from M11 this spot is what those with urban design tendencies call a ‘gateway site’.

Somehow mingling thoughts on infrastructure, technology and urban sculpture, and simultaneously clashing random images of Luis Baragans satellite towers (Mexico city), the Dyson Air multiplier (bladeless fan) with an abstraction of the Olympic logo, I arrived at a sketch for a cluster of ‘Lollilop’ wind turbines. I imagined them strung in a loose line between the various bridges. The turbines themselves would be a unique and innovative ‘ring within a ring design’ doing away with conventional hub and blades. Just for fun, I started to speculate on the detailed design of the prestressed carbon fibre ‘twisted ribbon’ blade, wondering if this might reduce vibrations and noise.

Back in the office we debate the relative merits of wind as a renewable energy source. These things need to be big to work so we think the turbines would have to be 12-17m diameter to generate 75KW. So off we go drawing, modelling, adjusting, tweaking and doing what it is we do.

The world’s attention will soon focus on the passing of the Olympic Torch and the turbines could capture this excitement with reciprocal structures built in Rio, creating a coherent symbol of sustainability and legacy. Great. Let’s get on the phone to Boris’ office.

‘What are those lollipops you’re drawing?’ says someone who’s just snuck up behind my shoulder.

Dan Burr