Art or Architecture? Where is the inspiration in the Olympic Park?

'Run' designed by Monica Bonvicini
‘Run’ designed by Monica Bonvicini

I was lucky enough to get tickets to see the womens basketball on the first full day of the Olympics last Saturday.

During my research for the day I discovered that there are art and culture installations within the Olympic Park. Now I may well have done my research very late at night, or when I was quite tired but I just didn’t read through all the explanations on what the art was and where it was, I thought it would be quite obvious and easily seen. Ahem.

Walking into the Olympic Park is quite an overwhelming experience, you hear on the TV how big the place is and they try to show the scale of it but until you are standing there you don’t quite realise how vast it is. Everything is so spaced out and the walkways are very wide so you can miss some of the detail of the place as you are trying to get to where you need to go in time.

The only piece that I saw, realised was an artwork and got a picture of was ‘Run’ designed by Monica Bonvicini which is outside one of the venues the ‘Copper Box’. It is a massive structure but as I was walking down the middle of the very wide walkway pushing a wheelchair I have to say I almost missed it! I managed to stop to get this picture, which looking at it now doesn’t really show the massive size, but believe me it is very tall and very shiny and actually quite impressive. It is made of steel and glass which acts as a mirror in the daytime, as seen here, and at night glows with internal LED lights.

Having just gone onto the London 2012 website to see what else there was I have realised that I did see another of the installations without realising it was an art work. I thought that they were giant colourful pencils on the edges of the waterways, well thats what the shape suggested to me, in fact they are called ‘Steles’.  I am very fortunate in that I have got another chance to visit the Olympic Park later on in the games so I will get a photo of them then.

One thing that I did look out for but didn’t see, is something called ‘History Trees’, by Ackroyd and Harvey, where large trees have been planted by the three entrances. They sound like they would be quite interesting to see but actually will be more interesting over time as each tree will have a large ring secured into the crown which in time will be ‘grown over’ by the tree. I’ll have a look for these next time too.


To be honest I was much more inspired by the buildings than by the artwork. As you walk in and out through the Stratford Gate you can walk under the beautiful roof of the Aquatic Centre, I was not the only person who stopped to take a picture of this, the way it curves round is gorgeous. Having had a quick look on the internet I cannot find what this part of the roof is made of and sitting here right now I can’t remember what I thought it was when I stood there, it could well be wood. You feel like you want to reach out and stroke it. If you do walk under it just make sure that you do look up.


Underside of the Aquatic Centre roof
The beautiful underside of the Aquatic Centre roof


I absolutely love the Basketball Arena, my destination for what I was going to watch, you can see it from quite a way away which is very helpful. From a distance it looks like it is perched on top of a mound of trees, which it isn’t, but it makes you think as you walk towards it. For some reason it reminds me of a meringue, any guesses as to why? It looks almost like it is trying to burst out of the roof covering. The white plastic covering is also used for light shows, I’ll bet it looks amazing though I haven’t seen it. This is one of the buildings that will be dismantled after the games and its parts hopefully reused elsewhere or recycled.


The meringue like Basketball Arena
The meringue like Basketball Arena


I’m not quite sure how or even if this experience will inspire me with the work that I am doing, I am still trying to process what I have seen and what I felt. Only time will tell if it comes out in my work or not. Though I am sure of one thing, I was definitely more impressed with the architecture than the art.

If you are going to the Olympic Park, or even if you’re not, and would like to know what to look out for you can find out about the Art in the Park here and if you would like to know more about any of the Olympic venues and buildings you can find out about those here.

Have you been lucky enough to see the Olympic Park? What did you think? Do you think that the buildings are more inspiring than the art? Did you manage to spot any of the art?

I’d really love to know what you think……





Jutta M Stiller is a wood carver and sculptor specialising in Netsuke and Couture frames click here to subscribe to her newsletter ‘Tales From the Woodcarving Bench’ .