At first glance The Architecture of London 2012, by two of Britain’s most compelling and high-profile writers of the moment, Tom Dyckhoff and Claire Barrett, looks like some sort of Disneyland souvenir brochure. You tend to think: ‘Well, that’s nice.’
But to give it some credit, the book does offer a succinct, whistle-stop architectural tour around the Olympic Park and beyond. Presenting the Lower Lea Valley as a shrinking violet, the book examines a formidable balancing act: how do you transform a blighted and contaminated industrial landscape, complete with a cocktail of electricity pylons, factories and depots, into a successful Olympic park that is both sustainable and within budget?
As Dyckhoff and Barratt say: ‘The Games were used as a catalyst for change, fast-tracking a 30-year blueprint to put the entire city on a new path, through massive investment in infrastructure.’
Despite the authors’ efforts, the book’s small format (it’s 19cm x 18cm) doesn’t do justice to Edmund Sumner’s stunning photography.
That aside, while this may not be the flashy coffee table book to be proudly proffered to guests arriving at the beginning of the Games, this is not merely a souvenir. Seven years of hard slog are condensed into a small package of 250 pages, documenting both the gaudy icons and the unsung heroes.
The control by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games over press coverage of the Games has probably dictated that there is little or no room for critique in its documentation of London 2012, leaving the Olympic Park in this instance coming out smelling of roses. On balance then the book is more of a keepsake than an architectural education.