London 2012 The Shoal

In August 2009 the London Borough of Newham and Stratford Renaissance Partnership appointed a design team to deliver £13.5 million of high quality public realm that offers a unique visitor experience at the heart of Stratford Town Centre in time for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Without any imminent change to the traffic system, we need to accept the Town Centre as an island. However, an ‘island’ can be a very special place with many positive connotations – a destination, a getaway, a place apart. The key is to facilitate movement across the Town Centre, and to create a sense of excitement and drama that invites people in. The project proposes new public realm designs for a series of key spaces: Meridian Square as the gateway to Stratford for visitors arriving via public transport; Theatre Square at the heart of the Cultural Quarter; the Broadway with its historic character; and the Railway Tree crossing that connects with Stratford High Street. In addition, a vertical kinetic sculpture made of naturally coloured titanium - The Shoal – introduces a linear edge that consolidates the fractured north western edge of ‘Stratford Island’. The sculpture helps define the island and acts as decoy to the taller parking structures and buildings upon the island. Overall, the re-invigorated public realm together with The Shoal aim to change perceptions and establish Stratford Town Centre as a destination in its own right – a benchmark for the quality of future designs that will not be compromised by change ahead. The site lies adjacent to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games and is immediately adjacent to Stratford City ( a new retail based development). The Stratford Town Centre gyratory was installed in the 1960s, and has produced the ‘island’ that is Stratford Town Centre where the car dominates and dictates the rules. As per the introductory text, an ‘island’ can be a very special place with many positive connotations; we need to accept the ‘Island’ and turn present day problems into positive place making attributes. St John’s Church has stood in the centre of Stratford since 1834, and provides a tranquil and luscious green lung of mature trees and grassed areas in this otherwise fast and loud urban environment. We like to think of St John’s Church as ‘the Islet’ – the Island’s little brother – yet again brought out and harnessed as the landmark it was intended to be. An inlet is “a narrow body of water between islands”. Here, the concept of an inlet helps define the two main landforms that are Stratford Town Centre and St John’s Church, as well as providing a unified space for all movement running the length of the Broadway.

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