Masterplan For The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and Legacy

London, UK

In 2003 Buro Happold was appointed as the principal engineer for the AECOM consortium. The consortium was selected to masterplan the transformation of Lower Lea Valley, which was one of Europe’s most deprived areas, into the site of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, while also developing the masterplan for the site’s future legacy.

We have been playing a major role in this extremely complex East London regeneration project ever since.


The site’s industrial past has presented a number of challenges for the Buro Happold team. Our initial assessment revealed the site was criss-crossed by significant civil engineering features, including major water mains, high voltage electrical cables, canals, railways, roads and bridges. Its industrial heritage had left the area with polluted ground waters and land, and the river valley posed flood challenges that added to the poor provision of utilities and transport connectivity.

In order to ensure the site would have flexibility for the future, the site design needed to be suitable for both large crowds attending the Olympics and for the smaller number of visitors to the site in the years following the games. During the planning of the central Olympic precinct, attention was given to ensure that the large areas of public domain required for the safe and comfortable passage daily of over 250,000 spectators could be reduced to provide a more intimate environment for future legacy developments.

London 2012 Olympics masterplanning
Transforming one of London’s most deprived areas into the site of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and securing its legacy for the future. Image: ODA


As part of the original project team, Buro Happold integrated the outputs of eighteen different, inter-related workstreams to create a robust, co-ordinated and efficient infrastructure design package. On winning the bid for the 2012 Olympic Games, the consortium recommenced work with the newly created Olympic Development Agency. Once the revised planning application had been approved it provided the catalyst for our further involvement on the Legacy Communities masterplan and framework in the Lower Lea Valley, with the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC).

The designs for the Games and for the site’s future use were developed in tandem to ensure that over 80% of the original platform for the Games would benefit this revitalised quarter of London. The legacy transformation includes replacing temporary venues to allow residential and commercial development. The award-winning masterplan also anticipated future changes in requirements for renewable energy inputs, climate change regulations, building regulation codes and waste reduction targets.

Buro Happold further developed the urban infrastructure strategies for the future development sites of the Olympic Park, which is now known as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. This work included water resource and flood risk management, energy and infrastructure design, carbon management and inclusive design. These were based on our in-depth knowledge of the site, and supported by detailed analysis and modelling. Our on-going involvement enabled the client to make informed decisions and helped focus the choice of option studies, saving critical time and resources.

To ensure the continued viability of the site, we started by defining the positioning and span arrangements for all of the Olympic Park bridges. We then produced a family of highway bridge, footbridge and land bridge designs that were elegant, efficient, and low cost to build and maintain. The bridges also featured temporary additions that could be demounted after the games in order to scale down this important infrastructure element to meet legacy needs.

In addition to infrastructure design, Buro Happold provided a full range of engineering services for the two largest buildings on the Park, the 80,000 seat Olympic Stadium and the 1.2ft2, ICT-resilient International Broadcast and Press Centre.

Creating an iconic 80,000 capacity stadium for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Image: ODA


Our work alongside the rest of the design team has seen the successful delivery of the masterplan for the Olympic Games, while also preparing for its reimagining as The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The park is now a diverse public space that is home to both cultural and sports facilities, as well as providing expansive open space for community activities.

Alongside the masterplanning for the site, our work to build flexibility into the Olympic Stadium and the International Broadcast centre into legacy buildings has seen them reworked to provide a premier football and athletics venue, and Here East, the creative hub for innovators and digital makers.

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