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Stratford Waterfront | © LLDC
Stratford Waterfront | © LLDC
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‘Olympicopolis’ Brings The Smithsonian To The Olympic Park

Picture of Johanna Gill
Updated: 30 May 2016
A world-class cultural and education district is coming to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, bringing together outstanding organisations to showcase exceptional art, dance, craft, science, history and cutting-edge design. Set around the iconic stadium, the ArcelorMittal Orbit and the London Aquatics Centre, Olympicopolis will be made up of two sites in the park: UCL East and Stratford Waterfront.

Whilst UCL East will feature a new university campus for the University College of London (UCL), the Stratford Waterfront will include a new campus for the University of the Arts London. Alongside there will be major new spaces for the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Sadler’s Wells. A number of world-class institutions have already shown interest to set up a permanent presence on these two sites: The Smithsonian Institution announced that it’s considering opening an exhibition space at London’s new cultural complex.

Stratford Waterfront | © LLDC
Stratford Waterfront | © LLDC

The institution developed terms for an agreement with the London Legacy Development Corp. (LLDC) for its presence in the cultural centre, which also stressed that plans could only progress if $50 million were raised from British sources; a sum that has now been raised. If an agreement is reached, it would be the first time in the Smithsonian’s 168-year history that they venture beyond the U.S. for a long-term exhibition venue. The centre would feature exhibits from all the Smithsonian sites, including its National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of Natural History and various art galleries. The focus at London’s Olympicopolis would be America’s history and contribution to science and would be an opportunity for the institution to move these topics into a global context.

Stratford Waterfront | © LLDC
Stratford Waterfront | © LLDC

The 40,000-square-foot gallery is expected to open in 2021 and will feature permanent and rotating exhibitions, programs and activities. In case the Smithsonian pulls out of the project, there’s also another museum that has shown interest in expanding to the new cultural site at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park: The British Museum. The scheme is expected to deliver 3,000 jobs, 1.5 million additional visitors and £2.5 billion economic value to Stratford and its surrounding area. The design for the Stratford Waterfront will be by a team led by award-winning architectural practice Allies and Morrison, and the UCL site by LDA design.

Olympicopolis is set to open in 2021.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, UK