A massive development: UCL East

UCL East student accommodation

Out on one of my exercise perambulations across the Olympic Park I took the top photo. I didn’t know who the building was for, I was just interested in it’s wintery skeletal appearance. Back home I found Google maps had UCL written on the area, but I was uncertain if that meant this building, so I went back the next day for another look. I discovered that several buildings had UCL (University College London) on the hoardings.

UCL Eastbank Feb 2021
UCL East Jan 2021

Further research revealed that this is a massive development, as shown in the photo of the model below.

Model of UCL East Bank
Model of UCL East

As a long-time resident of the East End of London, I’m fascinated, and pleased by all the developments that have regenerated and improved the area, bringing many new jobs.

The history of Eastbank and the Cultural Quarter

In the 18th century the 2012 Olympic site was occupied by a dairy farm in the middle of marshland. Industry didn’t get going out here until after the railways expanded in the 1860s. The map below from Joe Brown’s excellent and detailed London Railway Atlas shows all the railways that have ever existed. You can see that they cover half of the Olympic Park. The ones in black are still current. Westfield is below Stratford International (top right). The line through Coborn Road Station was built for the Eastern Counties Railway, and runs over Tom Thumbs arch. The line though Old Ford Station (North London Railway) is where the A12 now runs.

Railways near Stratford from the London Railway Atlas by Joe Brown
Railways near Stratford from the London Railway Atlas by Joe Brown

The labour intensive steam trains were phased out in the 1960s. The local industry was slowly declining, and the area became an ex-industrial wasteland. I took the photo below of Carpenters Road Locks in 2005. You’ll recognise the bridge in the foreground which has been restored. It’s just north of the London Stadium.

Carpenters Road Locks in 2005
Carpenters Road Locks in 2005
2012 Olympic Stadium Nov 2008
2012 Olympic Stadium Nov 2008

London started bidding to host the 2012 Olympic Games in 2004. From the beginning the games were seen as an opportunity to regenerate the area. That has been delivered. There’s been a 40% growth in local employment. The local transport infrastructure was greatly improved. The smart new Westfield shopping centre was built. The Aquatics Centre, Velodrome and other sporting venues are now open to all. The former athletes village was converted into a new living quarter comprising 2,800 flats, on the edge of a fabulous new park. Sadly, there are problems with flammable cladding.

Westfield 28 July 2012 during Olympics
Westfield 28 July 2012 during the Olympics

Eastbank and the Cultural Quarter

Eastbank June 2020
Eastbank June 2020

Culture is one of the things which brings tourists to London. All the new Covid-19 vaccines will enable the world to open up again.

The Eastbank, a big piece of which runs in a line northeast from the London Aquatics Centre, is a £1.1 billion investment bringing 10,000 students and 2,500 jobs. By 2023 it will be providing a new home for the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and a new V&A museum in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution. The London College of Fashion are moving here and Sadler’s Wells are setting up a new dance theatre.

Loughborough University and UCL are already resident up at Here East.

Looking north from the London Aquatics Centre. The Cultural Quarter, Eastbank
Looking north from the London Aquatics Centre. The Cultural Quarter, Eastbank. Taken Nov 2020. I think the big building might be for the London College of Fashion

UCL East

This photo shows the scale of the UCL East Bank
This photo shows the scale of the UCL East

This ambitious addition to the Bloomsbury based University College London will run from the ArcelorMittal Orbit to just south of the Aquatics Centre.

UCL say this new university campus will bring together academics, students, local communities and industry to solve the biggest challenges affecting people’s lives and the planet – today and into the future. UCL East is integrating Experiments, Arts, Society and Technology: EAST. Phase 1 will start with 4,000 students and 260 academic staff. The Government has confirmed that UCL will receive £100million towards UCL East from the £151million government investment for East Bank.

Marshgate academic building under construction at UCL East Bank
Marshgate 1 academic building under construction at UCL East

The Marshgate 1 academic building above will have a big central atrium and the ground and first floors will be open to the public. It will cost £215 million.

The plans have been around for a while. Three years ago academics were voicing concerns over the developments projected £487 million cost. UCL signed contracts with Mace and Vinci for the construction in Sept 2019. UCL say they have a £1.25bn ten-year programme of investment in UCL’s estate across London.

By the time UCL East is ready for occupation Covid-19 should be history. But will the higher spending overseas students return to the UK?

Personally, I think they will. This is a great location, with lots of local facilities that weren’t here 10 years ago. The Olympic Park has a great feeling of space and light.

Road racing at the London Velodrome
Road racing at the London Velodrome
The London Stadium in 2014 being converted for West Ham FC
The London Stadium in 2014 being converted for West Ham FC
Aquatics Centre in 2016
Aquatics Centre in 2016

2 Comments

  1. This is great Alan. Thanks to Covid it’s been nearly a year since I’ve been in the Park – it’s just amazing how the building has progressed. It will all look so different next time I am there.

    1. Thanks Gill. The sheer scale of what’s happening here is amazing. Everything so far has all gone to plan.

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