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The Olympic Park's Hidden Art

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published July 11th 2014
From Giant Crayons to Under Water Tunnels
queen elizabeth olympic park


The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is a true urban park, with roads and city streets melding into grass and trees seamlessly. There is also an added community feel created by the integration of artwork into the landscape. It is the first that was intentionally designed to fit commissioned installations into the surroundings, giving it the art the appearance that that is has grown out of the ground just like the plant life.

The government worked with established and emerging artists both local and international. Some are large and striking, while others take a bit of hunting for. But because they feel like such a natural part of the park, even the ones that are in plain sight are easy to miss, simply because you don't realise they are part of the collection. You see them, but you don't register them.

There are twenty-six permanent installations; if you are interested in seeking them out, I recommend picking up a trail map from the Information Centre before you start. On my visit to The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, I missed a lot of them out, simply because I didn't know they were there. Here are the ones I came across:

1. History Trees

British artist Ackroyd and Harvey reflect the biodiversity of the park with ten young specimen trees dotted throughout the park. You can tell them apart from the other trees by the big metal ring acting as a crown. The first one is beside the Aquatics Centre, with quates from the local community remembering the park's construction.

2. Steles

queen elizabeth olympic park, steles, crayons


Keith Wilson lines the Waterworks River with thirty-five colourful posts. They are made from the same material as water buoys, and while they are meant to be mooring posts representing the area's history with barges, I think they look more like crayons.

3. Wild Swimmer

queen elizabeth olympic park, wild swim


An underwater poem by Jo Shapcott encourages you to 'swim through the poem'. Eight kilometres of waterways travel around the park, including a tunnel that eventually leads you into the swimming pool at the aquatic centre. Whether you are actually allowed to use it, I'm not sure.

4. Acelormittal Orbit

queen elizabeth olympic park, acelormittal orbit


A 114.5m tower designed by Sir Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond, the Acelormittal Orbit is the tallest sculpture in the UK, and constructed out of recycled material. Visitors can pay to go up for a unique view of the London skyline. I personally think it is ugly, and ruins the skyline, but there you.

5. Pixel Wall

queen elizabeth olympic park, pixel wall


Pixel Wall was created by the London based design collective, Tomato. It is a long stretch of wall made from rotating wooden cubes, which can be turned around to create words and pictures. When I was there, some smart aleck had formed the word 'penis' on it.

6. Run

Monica Bonvinci created my favourite installion in the park. A glass and stainless steel artwork for outside The Copper Box, it forms the word 'RUN', blending into the environment through the use of mirrors. During the night, however, it glows in the dark with a series of LED lights.

7. 3D Map

queen elizabeth olympic park, timber lodge, map


Although it is not technically classified a one of the artworks, I love the three-dimensional map of the park, which can be found outside the Timber Lodge. It is accompanied by an archive of photos showing the park's construction, and the stages it went through.

8. Olympic Rings

queen elizabeth olympic park, alfred's meadow, olympic rings


Strangely enough the Olympic Rings aren't counted in the list either, but given their significance, I think they are worth a mention. The rings are at the top of a hill on Alfred's Meadow, and remind me of the Hollywod sign in Los Angeles
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Why? Fun for art lovers
When: Anytime
Phone: 0800 0722 110
Where: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Cost: Free
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