A cultural and educational hub is to be constructed on the site of London’s 2012 Olympics inspired by the collection of museums, arts venues and world-class universities built in South Kensington as a legacy to the 1851 Great Exhibition.
The multimillion pound project, which its architects claim could create 10,000 jobs, will provide a second campus for University College London and additional gallery space for the Victoria and Albert Museum on land between the Olympic Stadium and Stratford station.
UCL, which has long wanted to extend its operations further east, was wooed by London mayor Boris Johnson after the collapse of previous negotiations with Newham Council to open a second campus next to the Olympic Park.
UCL wants its Stratford site to complement what goes on at its main campus in Bloomsbury. This may include a new centre for culture and heritage, a design school, a biotech hub and an educational technology centre, as well as a space for entrepreneurs, according to Stephen Caddick, UCL’s vice-provost for enterprise.
“We will be very actively exploring development of new partnerships with other universities, with business and industry and with cultural institutions and charities to establish east London as the global hotspot for enterprise, innovation, research and education,” Mr Caddick said.
The plan has been branded Olympicopolis by Mr Johnson in homage to Albertopolis, the neighbourhood containing Imperial College, the Royal Albert Hall, the V&A, and the science and natural history museums, laid out by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert.
It is hoped that the project will create a legacy for Stratford that lasts as long as South Kensington’s collection of cultural institutions, which were funded from the profits of the Great Exhibition and remain world beating venues for research, education and the arts more than a century and a half later.
The plan will give the V&A a new foothold in the East End, in addition to its Museum of Childhood, situated close to the Olympic Park in Bethnal Green.
“The idea behind Olympicopolis is simple and draws on the extraordinary foresight of our Victorian ancestors,” Mr Johnson said. “We want to use Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as a catalyst for the industries and technologies in which London now leads the world in order to create thousands of new jobs.”