Stephen Gill: Edgeland and the Olympics

3 December 2009 | blog, cities, comment, frameworks, place making, working with communities

Edgeland from Sally Mumby-Croft on Vimeo.

As a follow on from the post here almost two years ago entitled Terrain Vague: place and landscape and Stephen Gill’s photographic work in the Lower Lea Valley, this video which has been around for a few months on Vimeo, draws attention to the destruction of land, common land, allotments and football pitches which are being cleared to make way for the 2010 Olympics. The story moves through the various people whose lives are being disrupted by the proposals and who point out that this land is not simply unused but provides an escape from the city.

As Iain Sinclair and others have pointed out, the breathtaking intellectual thinness of the proposed Starbucks landscape of the Olympics compares badly with the richness of the existing complex environment. This is not a plea for doing nothing – it’s more a wish that in the rush to create, to ‘deliver’ and to ‘drive forward a vision’ towards this dubious prize, designers, planners, procurement officers or whoever should work with what is there rather than scrape it away and produce just another piece of second rate UK property development. Post-Olympics the communities can have most of this back – except that there will be nothing worth having in comparison to the richness of what is already there.

Many of the issues raised here resonate with the work we did in Sheffield on the Council’s Rivers and Waterways Strategy, especially in relation to the disregard that development agencies have for existing character and their blindness to the ways in which this can be used to create contemporary environments that are rich, exciting and beneficial to local communities. The Sheffield – City of Rivers report is available below: (should be browsed fullscreen).

The Sheffield – City of Rivers