Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Purposeful Vacationing: London

Armed with the self-styled goal of "purposeful vacationing", weetuzoo Writer/Researcher Amanda Carlson loves the adrenaline of arrival. Now weetu international correspondant, be on the lookout for Amanda's reports from her current US-EURO-AFRICA circuit.  Focused on collaborative city planning, while exploring the extraordinary instances that make up daily life around the world, Carlson has lived and worked in New York, Buenos Aires, London and Chicago.

Welcome to her first blog stop: London
by Amanda Carlson

The challenge of what to do with an Olympic Park has plagued many cities – the “ruins” of Athens come to mind – while others have found ways to repurpose the space for the less athletic among us – for instance, Beijing’s Water Cube, water park.

Visiting London in early February, only months after the 2012 Games ended, I trekked with my pal from North London over to the East End to check out the changed Hackney Wick.  Knowing the reputation of many Olympic sites, we were both curious to see the Games’ aftermath.

Approaching from the canals bordering the western part of the Olympic Park, what we found was a complete surprise to both of us – a massive construction site.  Surrounded on almost every side by fences, security cameras, and inaccessible pathways, the Olympic Stadium, Orbit, and all other facilities had been blocked off to pedestrians, bikes, and vehicles.  The only traversable area was a stretch of the Thames Water Greenway that led us to the View Tube, a social-enterprise community venue where information was available about the refashioning of the “Olympic Park” into the “Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park”. This £292 million investment aims to transform the site of the 2012 Summer Games into “the UK’s most exciting urban park”  and will completely alter the nature of public, recreational space in East London. 

Parts of the park and adjoining complexes are projected to be completed between 2013 and 2030, a portion, including the not wholly uncontroversial Orbit, will reopen in July of this year.  For now, visitors wanting to picture the renovated 2.5 square kilometer area will need their Olympian-caliber imaginations to visualize the Park’s final design.  For visitors not feeling up to the challenge, the View Tube provides maps of what the area will look like in 2030, including a timeline of the site’s construction.  Despite not being able to get a closer look at the Olympic Park complex, the construction site was definitely worth the visit.

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