Making sense of the East Bank

East Bank header

Once a former industrial wasteland, the 2012 Olympics rejuvenated this part of London. The Westfield shopping centre is busy everyday of the week. The older shops and market in the 1974 Stratford Centre are thriving. Both are helped by the excellent transport links at Stratford.

Cultural Quarter 2018

The East Bank area was once called the Cultural Quarter. Plans have adapted and changed and deadlines have slipped. But it’s all still going ahead. This article looks at the present situation. The buildings of the East Bank are now a physical presence. You can walk around the Olympic Park and watch them being constructed.

London College of Fashion (left), student accommodation for UCL
Above the bridge: Pool Street, student accommodation for UCL. Far left: London College of Fashion

UCL are creating a huge new campus called UCL East. The V&A museum will occupy two sites. There will be a BBC Music Centre, a Sadler’s Wells performance space, and the London College of Fashion is moving here too.

These developments combined will turn the former Olympic Park area into an even bigger tourist destination. Some will fly around the world to get here, the residents of Bow can walk to it. Google maps reckons it’s a 1.4 mile walk from Tesco in Gladstone Place to the new V&A Museum. You can reach East Bank by walking across Old Ford Locks and along the River Lea round the back of the Stadium. Over £1.1bn is being invested in the developments I’m listing here.

Let’s start at the southern end.

UCL East

The two UCL East sites are called Pool Street, which is to the south of the London Aquatics Centre, and Marshgate which is west of the river just south of the Arclor Mital Orbit.

Phase 1 of the development, the buildings you can see now, will cater for 4,000 students, and have 260 academic staff on site.

Pool Street West

The two towers will house 550 students. The lower podium level will house labs, and teaching and research spaces alongside common social areas to enable collaboration.

Pool Street West, UCL student accommodation
Pool Street West, UCL student accommodation

Marshgate

The big cube-like Marshgate building is for teaching and research. Subjects will include robotics, autonomous systems, advanced propulsion, health and finance. The central atrium will be open to the public.

UCL Eastbank
Marshgate UCL East

UCL say they are breaking down the barriers between research and teaching, academia and enterprise, faculty and the public. There will be a lot of collaboration with local schools.

See my earlier article about UCL East.

London Aquatics Centre

There are three pools open to the general public in this building. They also offer swimming classes, diving and a gym. Booking and info.

Visitor Centre

The interesting looking wavy wooden structure close to Westfield will house a new Olympic Park Visitor Centre/information point, replacing the temporary cabin which is currently nearby. It will also have a roof terrace a cafe and two restaurants.

Restaurants & Visitor Centre Eastbank
Updated photo: Restaurants & Visitor Centre Eastbank taken 25th Aug 2021

Sadler’s Wells East

Sadler’s Wells are opening a new 550 seat dance theatre the other side of the walkway into Westfield from the Aquatics Centre. It will also come with new choreographic practice facilities, and a hip hop academy.

Eastbank: London College of Fashion, BBC Studios & Sadlers Wells
L-R London College of Fashion, BBC Studios & Sadler’s Wells East

BBC Music Studios

The new BBC Music Studios will become the home of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. It’s been based at Maida Vale since it was founded in 1930. Two visits by the Berlin Philharmonic in 1927 showed up the poor quality of orchestral playing in London. At that time orchestras were cobbled together with musicians substituting for each other depending on what other work they had on. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was the first permanent salaried orchestra in London.

The new studios will also be the new home for the BBC Symphony Chorus, the BBC singers as well as providing recording facilities for other musicians.

London College of Fashion

This ambitious project will unite all six of London College of Fashion’s sites for the first time in its 120 year history, creating an extraordinary new campus for over 6,500 students and staff, with state-of-the-art facilities including public open spaces, galleries, library and archives.

V&A East with black steel structure in front of London College of Fashion, Eastbank.
London College of Fashion (right). The black steel structure is for V&A East

V&A East

V&A East will operate from two sites on the Olympic Park. The Museum will be alongside the London College of Fashion, close to Westfield. It will also have what’s now being called the V&A East Storehouse at the southern end of the Here East Building (the former broadcast centre). This will take visitors behind the scenes.The Smithsonian have dropped out. The opening is now planned for 2024.

V&A East Aug 2021
V&A East Aug 2021
V&A East Storehouse
V&A East Storehouse (to be) at Here East

East Wick + Sweetwater

The East Wick + Sweetwater areas of the Olympic Park will become a new residential neighbourhood. They’re alongside the Lee Navigation between the Stadium and the Copperbox.