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Art in the Olympic Park: London 2012 Olympics

The focus of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be the Olympic Park located in the Lower Lea Valley in east London. After the Games the area will be transformed into the largest urban park created in Europe for more than 150 years. A programme of permanent art commissions, produced to a budget of c.£33million, managed by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), has been integrated into the architecture, design, construction and engineering of the Olympic Park.

“By integrating arts and culture into the public spaces around the Park, our aim is to achieve a unique area that will give existing local communities a sense of ownership, attract new businesses, create an area where new communities will want to live, as well as make east London a world-class visitor destination.” ODA website.

A diverse range of projects have been developed over the last two years. The 114.5-metre high ArcelorMittal Orbit designed by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond to a budget of £19.1million, will be the UK’s tallest sculpture as well as allowing public acces onto two observation decks. Artists have also designed artworks for bridges, underpasses, security fences, planting schemes, and facades, as well as artist-led community projects in the five Host Boroughs. Neville Gabie has been appointed as artist-in-residenceworking with curator Sam Wilkinson of Insite Arts, to develop a series of outreach events in the Host Boroughs (Greenwich, Hackney, Newham,Waltham Forest and Tower Hamlets).

Design students Oscar Bauer and Nazareno Crea developed The Clouds Bridge, on Angel Lane bridge in Stratford. Using a simple square grid, they developed they painted a pattern of cloud forms onto the bridge. 

Jason Bruges Studio’s concepts will be seen on one of the Olympic Stadium bridges as well as two underpasses. The bridge piece Fast-Faster-Fastest celebrates the achievements of Olympic and Paralympic champions with an interactive artwork that challenges people to race against the speed of their sporting heroes. The underpasses lighting schemes use complementary lighting artworks to reflect the movement of swimming and rowing.

A team comprising, We Made That, Klassnik Corporation and Riitta Ikonen, collectively created Fantasticology;  ‘Fantastic-Archaeology’ is a series of planting designs for wildflower meadows as a floral celebration of the past industrial heritage of the site.The meadows will recreate the footprints of the industrial buildings through different species of wildflower, which will bloom in strong colours during Games time. The same reclaimed patterns have also been scaled up and set into The Greenway concrete to create playful and dynamic entrance mats that welcome visitors.

Continuing the narrative of reclaimed materials used by The Greenway’s landscape architects, the artists have used the graphic patterns from textured manhole covers in the area and applied this local graphic history on vertical markers at each entrance.

The Floating Cinema is designed by Hackney-based architects Studio Weave (Je Ahn and Maria Smith), and programmed by artists Somewhere (Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie). This cinematised canal boat will navigate the local waterways with a programme of on-board screenings and canalside film events, creative canal tours, talks and workshops.

Grenville Davey helped the Royal College of Art facilitate workshops with local people to develop ideas for an installation that will be incorporated into the retaining walls of the Central Park bridge in the Olympic Park. The theme of ‘leaving your mark’ was developed by Davey into ‘finger prints’ of different sizes, marking space and disrupting the surface of the wall.

Carsten Nicolai created lfo spectrum, an artwork for the fence of an infrastructure building in the Olympic Park. His work is an alternative representation of the Olympic Emblem with the five rings transformed into an image of a low-frequency oscillation (lfo) sound wave. Using the colour spectrum of a sunset, the artwork was then digitally printed directly onto the fence.  http://www.carstennicolai.de

Memory Marathon was a  participatory event in which artist Simon Pope walked a specially planned 26-mile route through the five Host Boroughs for London 2012. He was accompanied by 104 residents who recalled their stand-out memories from Olympic history and produced an 80-minute film of the day in 2010. In November 2010. In 2012 the artist re-visited the route and some of the walkers, to reflect how the local landscape has continued to change.

Hackney-based artist Martin Richman One Whirl is inspired by the energy of the Games, placed on one of the bridges near the Velodrome. A light piece is on the walls and ceiling of an underpass on the Olympic Park. http://www.martinrichman.com/

Winning Words is a programme of permanent poems throughout the Park, which will include both commissioned poems for the Olympic Park and existing poems nominated by the public. The first nominated poem was announced in January 2011 as the last line of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem Ulysses: “to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield”. These words will be engraved as a permanent installation on a prominent wall in the centre of the Athletes’ Village.

The first commissioned poem for the Olympic Park as part of the Winning Words programme has been written by Lemn Sissay. Inspired by the history of the site, Lemn has written ‘Spark Catchers’, a poignant poem on the history of the Bryant and May match factory, which still exists on the edge of the Park in Bow. ‘Spark Catchers’ will be etched into a wooden structure in the north of the Park which will house one of the main electricity transformers, and will be one of a series of permanent poems in the Park to provide moments of reflection and interest.

Monica Bonvicini has been commissioned to design a flagship artwork for the Handball Arena. Monica has designed three nine-metre tall letters forming the word ‘RUN’. The sculpture will be made of glass and stainless steel. In daylight, the letters will act as a mirror for visitors and their surroundings, and at night the letters will become more transparent and glow with internal LED lighting. Inspiration for the work comes from musical references such as ‘Running Dry’ by Neil Young and the Velvet Underground song ‘Run Run Run’, also present in her previous work.

Clare Woods and DJ Simpson created two large-scale works to be integrated into the facades of two utilities buildings in the south of the Park. Both artists have taken the landscape of the Park as the inspiration for their works and are using materials that resonate with industrial heritage of the site, such as tiles and aluminium.

The ODA art commissions and projects have been supported by a number of funders, including the Greater London Authority, Arts Council England, London Development Agency, and Forward Arts Foundation.

Download information on the art projects: http://www.london2012.com/documents/oda-publications/art-in-the-park.pdf

Website: http://www.london2012.com/games/olympic-park/art-in-the-olympic-park/

About jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space


One thought on “Art in the Olympic Park: London 2012 Olympics

  1. I’ve heard somewhere that the artwork / installation “Your easily worn smile” by Mary Aurory was initially on the programme. The project was a 10 metre long chain made up of lots of rings and circles that exist and found in the natural world joined together (spectacles, curtain hoops, earrings, car badges, Olympic rings). Is it true?
    Elisabeth Dunn

    Posted by elisabeth dunn | July 21, 2011, 2:17 pm

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