Stratford Waterfront Design Competition

In 2014 an international design competition was launched to create a new culture and education district on Stratford Waterfront as part of the Olympicopolis scheme.

The competition attracted interest from hundreds of architects, master planners, engineers and landscape architects from around the world.

Below are extracts from the submissions of the six teams short-listed for the final stage of the competition. Allies & Morrison were announced as the competition winners in June 2015 and have since been developing the new masterplan for the site. A new masterplan has been developed in 2018. You can find details here. The latest images for the site were released in June 2018.

  • AECOM and Stanton Williams have formed a design collective with the working title Made in London, including Haworth Tompkins, Alison Brooks Architects, Carmody Groarke, Asif Khan and AKT2. Together, their aspiration for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Cultural Quarter is emerging as a major new ‘creative manufactory’ for London.  Our first priority has been to develop a powerful governing masterplan concept that generates a recognisable architectural whole, while simultaneously embracing the desire of each participating cultural and educational institution to achieve individual expression and an identifiable address. 
    The buildings and places of this scheme have strong metropolitan qualities – original, contemporary and innovative, but rooted in the ‘making’ tradition and transforming identity of east London. Complex forms and geometries are eschewed in favour of a sequence of dramatic volumes, rich colours and gorgeous textures, all redolent of the east London craft industries whose legacy will be rekindled in this project.

    Full Site Main Section

    Full Site Plan

    Hackney Wick View

    ArcelorMittal Orbit View 

    Plaza view

  • Our proposal responds to the brief's desire to maximise the potential synergy among the institutions to bring life and energy, a sense of overlap and exchange, to the public realm. The primary locus for this will be the new upper terrace. The shared ground of this landscaped terrace is at once a clear route linking all of the site together and a legible succession of public event spaces leading to each of the institutions and overlooking, and stepping down to, the river.

    Each of the buildings within Stratford Waterfront establishes a strong, individual identity and discrete position within the site. But, through a consistent materiality, our proposal also seeks to establish among the buildings a degree of commonality, reflecting their shared sense of purpose, and to give the site a strong common identity. Like a city in microcosm, every building is unique, but each element also contributes to the more complex task of making a larger and coherent whole.


  • Like the 2012 Olympic venues, the V&A, Sadler’s Wells, UAL’s London College of Fashion, the additional institutions and two residential towers stand like a family of cultural super-pavilions to create a new social and creative riverbank within Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Balancing kinship with individuality, they transform the riverbank into a public landscape of nature, art and culture.
    The new Culture and Education Quarter extends the riverside into a vertical landscape of performances, exhibitions, learning and creative production. Simple prismatic volumes, dressed in brick, create a new skyline revealing and concealing London’s most important cultural institutions.
    Brick carries the ensemble firmly into the heart of London’s future. From hand-made to high-tech, humble to lavish, brick is London’s natural texture. From a thin theatrical wrap to deep sculptural piers or decorative expanse, the Culture and Education Quarter resonates with the openness of the park and London’s plurality, material consistency and cultural originality. Together they shape the nature of culture in London.

  • The Lea Valley has historically been defined by the interplay between nature and industry, and the landscape around the ‘island’ site is a scene of competing infrastructures and multiple ground planes. Two new bridges therefore play a fundamental role in our proposal by connecting the wider context to a dominant singular plane – a common ground – that runs throughout the site providing step-free access routes for visitors, commuters and residents.

    The proposal encourages the institutions to harness the productive creativity of East London with spaces that foster experimentation and interaction. Although the volume and materiality of each building is driven by its own architectural idea, they each share a party wall which unifies the programmatic diversity of the complex and maximises footprint. To assist the merging of public space with institutional activity, the organisation and internal courtyard spaces of the buildings generate a rich variety of interconnected public and semi-public spaces.

    A grand public route through the site fosters cultural interaction and mediates institutional overlap

    The composition of the various insitutions rises towards the residential towers at the north west tip of the site

    Aerial view showing the F10 Bridge; its height sets the datum for a new common ground level across the site

    Model view from the south west across the Lea Waterworks River



  • Other buildings in the Park are objects standing in landscape – we propose an inversion of this condition: a landscape nestled between objects. The element that unites all the institutions is also the space that is central to the site: a continuous walk linking the different levels, with views across the park, becoming the context for events and cross-institutional collaborations: a unique space in the world.

    The V&A, Sadler’s Wells, and UAL’s London College of Fashion are neighbours, each have their own ‘front door’ and specific relationships to the new terraces, off which four towers are also set: The residential towers at the north are markers for the overall development, two smaller pavilions sit next to the water. 

    Active Carpenters Road frontages are created for the V&A, Sadler’s Wells and UAL’s London College of Fashion.

    An ‘earthenware’ and ‘glassware’ language was proposed for external materials of the specific architecture developed to test each building brief.

    Credits: Coffey Architects, DRDH Architects, 5th Studio, David Kohn Architects, Grant Associates, Atelier Ten, Expedition, Charcoalblue, Gardiner & Theobald, Useful Simple Projects, All Clear Designs, Thomas Matthews, Hoidn Wang

    Institutions open from an interconnected public space linking the levels across the site. Residential towers mark the northern end.

    The buildings develop their individual characters in a language of 'earthenware' and 'glassware' facades defining public spaces.

    The facade language is developed with decorative motifs to surround the flexible galleries of the V&A.

    Glazed ceramic concept model showing the site split, and inter-relationships between the institutions and residential towers.

    V&A and Smithsonian connect by plinth and party wall, Sadler's Wells creates the fulcrum, UAL links with all.



  • Ramboll and Rick Mather Architects worked with a diverse team from around the world to respond to the challenging Olympicopolis brief.

    The sculptural response embraced urban and landscape ideas that emerged from the diverse ingenuity of the international team. From the initial conceptual sketches and models depicting a series of ascending roofscapes, to the diversity of forms crafted on a generous and efficient civic surface, the proposals stood out, highlighting the affinity of architectural approaches developed for each individual institution.

    The rational response to the technical and environmental demands of the brief was combined with a programmatic blurring of edges to allow collaboration between the institutions and foster creative combinations of activities within the varied public and private spaces.

    Working with artists and designers, in fields as diverse as smell, sound and pattern, the team developed a range of integrated sensory responses that engaged with the identities of each institution to propose an ephemeral sensory experience to complement and inform the architectural proposals.

    Design concept imagery

    View from the ArcelorMittal Orbit looking across Stratford Waterfront

    View from the bridge looking towards Sadler's Wells and the Fourth Institution

    Night-time composition looking into the civic realm

    Layout plan