"I think long term it will be very valuable," said Oliver Wainwright, critic for Building Design magazine. "It kind of lacks the iconic glamour of Beijing but it fits in with these slightly more austere times. It was built on the promise of legacy, on what will happen after the event. There's a lot of compromises for the games itself, all made with the longer term in mind."
The idea of using the Olympics as a springboard for reviving this droopy east London setting may be laudable social engineering, but planners are aware that goals may be undercut if the area is not dynamic enough to grow on its own.
Despite the gleaming new shopping Westfield mall — Europe's largest — and the area's expanded railway stations, it could easily decay again if the surrounding neighborhood is blighted by joblessness and other ills.
Prominent architect Piers Gough, who is not connected to the project, said he doesn't expect the area to decline once the games end unless the British economy itself suffers a major breakdown.
"I really think the massive embarrassment of other Olympics, which has seen a sort of dead zone afterwards, has been avoided here, unless the whole economy implodes," he said. "I don't see why it shouldn't be a rolling program of regeneration."
He said some of the details — like the park's new bridges — have been beautifully engineered and called new buildings like architect Zaha Hadid's curvaceous Aquatics Center truly remarkable.
"Initially I thought the park was a bit harsh, a bit Eastern bloc, but the landscaping has really brought it together and made it luscious," he said. "The way it has so many levels and goes down to the rivers and the canals has been very clever and makes a great Olympics site. I'm impressed."
The general praise for the site stops, abruptly, at the perimeter of the Orbit Tower, a freeform red steel structure designed by artist Anish Kapoor. Many in the architectural world view the tower — funded largely by Lakshmi Mittal, one of Britain's most successful entrepreneurs — as an ego-driven eyesore in a park that is otherwise somewhat understated.
"It's awful, terrible," said Gough. "It really upsets me. "
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