diamond geezer

 Monday, September 02, 2013

LONDON 2012 → 2013
Athletes Village → East Village

Sorry, did I say that the East Village housing estate wasn't yet open? Appears it is. That's open in terms of being able to wander in from the surrounding neighbourhood and look around without being accosted by any security-type people, which I managed yesterday. Maybe that's because it was Sunday and most construction workers take a day off. Or maybe that's because a conscious and rather quiet decision has been made to connect to outside, because people are about to live here and they've got to be able to get home. No sign yet of actual residents, but buses are flowing through, and pupils start arriving at Chobham Academy next Monday. A few workers were fussing around some of the nearly-opened flats yesterday, along with proper security on roads within the estate that won't be open for some time. But a central patch of accommodation and recreation on Celebration Avenue is most definitely accessible, and nobody even blinks if you wander round with a camera.

My East Village gallery
There are 40 photographs altogether. [slideshow] [map]

A year ago the world's finest Paralympic athletes were living in these apartments, so someone's been extremely busy in the meantime transforming them for everyday use. Kitchens have been added and dividing walls removed, combining two athlete residences to create one saleable flat. You're probably too late to reserve one of the first batch, but there are nearly 3000 apartments all told and they're still flogging those. If you wander through Westfield's outdoor street, the marketing team have a shop unit where sales representatives sit waiting beside a 3D model in case anyone ever pushes open the glass door and asks for information. Wander around the estate itself and there are only hoardings, and a phone number to ring, and claims about how wonderful the whole place is. Not yet it isn't.

All the apartment buildings have a slightly different design, which helps to break up the uniformity, but most form square blocks arranged around the edges of a central courtyard garden. Each building is approximately ten storeys high, because you could pack in more athletes that way, and is entered via an automatic door at ground level. Where the insides aren't yet ready, a sign on the door urges visitors 'Blue shoes to be worn beyond this point'. The various buildings have eclectic names, and I assume some vague theme links them together. Tucana Heights, Ursa Mansions, Kaleidoscope House, Cavesson House, Patina Mansions... perhaps they were named by the same source who named all the East Village's roads with over-upbeat Olympic names. Medals Way has yet to open, but Cheering Lane and Prize Walk are now fully accessible, if somewhat twee.

A triangular expanse of grass is available for picnicking, frolicking and ball games - that's Victory Park - although the turf looks more like an also-ran at the moment. A long white wall temporarily shields the far side, where the apartments aren't yet ready, while a row of ugly concrete blocks prevents joyriders driving off the main road and churning up the grass. One hopes the developers have a more elegant solution to that particular problem in the final design. In one gap between buildings is a small wooden playground, currently pristine, with room for not many children to hang out. Other open spaces nearby tend to be piles of earth or potential construction sites, which means that certain views are distinctly less lovely, more like the outskirts of some Eastern European capital. A nicer touch are the colourful designs hung from several balconies, resembling the flags draped here when each block was home to a different nation's Olympic athletes.

The school's very quiet, as you'd expect before term starts. The main building's circular, and reached across the piazza of Ulysses Place. This peculiar space has part of an Alfred Lord Tennyson poem etched on the surrounding wall, presumably to inspire greatness during the day's lessons. Within this perimeter is a seemingly random arrangement of trees and crystalline blocks - I'd say octagonal-shaped chunks of pink granite - ideal for sitting on and nigh impossible to vandalise. Alongside is the academy's sports centre, a major undertaking, with an attractive selection of circular designs on one corner. When pupils have outdoor sports they cross a bespoke footbridge, attractively ribbed, which leads to an expanse of pitches and courts. Expect to see the Education Secretary turning up here soon for some major speech or press announcement, but he'll only be able to praise the facilities, and not yet the school's academic record.

It is strange wandering around a community that hasn't yet turned up. East Village's roads are entirely empty, apart from buses, construction vehicles and the occasional lost driver. Nevertheless the pedestrian crossing outside the school is already perfectly functional. I pressed the button, with zero traffic visible in either direction, and absolutely nothing happened for 30 seconds, at which point the lights changed, halting absolutely nobody, and I walked across. Various cycle lanes and advance stop lines were also entirely unnecessary, as any cyclist biking through could have had the entire road (or pavement) to themselves. But I wasn't completely alone on foot. A few Leyton residents had (correctly) worked out that this was now the quickest way to walk home from Westfield, so expect pedestrian numbers to increase.

It was also strange getting to walk along Temple Mills Lane for the first time in seven years. This used to a be a backroad ratrun leading to the Clays Lane housing estate, long since razed, whose cooperative residents could never afford the mortgage for any of the apartments on the new site. The northern arm of the old lane looks particularly bereft, still mostly development land, while the eastern arm links to the south end of Leyton. Only buses and taxis are supposed to cross the single-file bridge over the railway, which is one of the reasons the East Village isn't yet clogged with traffic. That and a lack of parking spaces - I don't think any of the future residents will be encouraged to be drivers.

This is just the beginning. Only a fraction of the East Village is ready, and there are five further neighbourhoods around the edge of the Olympic Park where construction has yet to begin. As Ken Livingstone planned, last year's festival of sport was merely the catalyst for the rebirth of this corner of London, a place where people will be proud to live and keen to invest. If you can afford to join the party, and you never really wanted a house with a garden anyway, E20 welcomes you.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream