Our design London: Olympic image makers

Amira Hashish meets the creative minds behind the landmark buildings and artworks of the Games village - and discovers how London inspires them
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Rod Sheard
© Matt Writtle
Rod Sheard and his dragonfly-inspired stadium in the Olympic Park


Rod Sheard is the principal architect for the Olympic Stadium

What I created

I remember walking along the riverbank next to the stadium site and seeing a dragonfly settle on a slender grass stalk. It was caught with the sun behind it and I was taken by how light and elegant it was. I thought that if those transparent wings could lift it into the air, we should be able to design a light and delicate building. We subsequently achieved the lightest Olympic stadium ever built with the smallest carbon footprint.

Sophie Smallhorn sculpture
Sheard was inspired by the minimalist colour sculptures of Sophie Smallhorn

Where I live

I have lived in my three-bedroom terrace house in sunny Putney for 20 years. It’s a beautiful suburb of London, close to the river and parks and full of restaurants, coffee shops and interesting people. Putney is great for sports enthusiasts, with the starting point of the annual Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race and Wimbledon Centre Court a short walk away. It maintains a touch of history with St Mary’s Church where, in 1647, the Putney Debates took place on the English Constitution.

Most coveted object

I would love a minimalist Sophie Smallhorn colour sculpture. Being able to distil things down to their bare essentials is an art form. We worked with her on the colours of the Olympic Stadium wrap.

London landmark

The London Eye, designed by David Marks and Julia Barfield, really makes London for me. It is big and visible, beautifully detailed and minimal. While functional, it is tongue-in-cheek. It takes a self-confident city to make a Ferris wheel into a piece of art.

Capital's best-kept secret

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Barnes. It has a huge variety of birds and plant life. It was reclaimed from an earlier light industrial site but is now a stunning place for the whole family to visit.

Top DIY tip

Paint everything white — walls, floors, ceilings — white is the new black! You can leave everything bare or pick out items or alcoves and recesses in a colour.

* Find out more about Rod’s work at populouslondon2012.com

Neil Mattinson
Neil Mattinson: lead landscape designer


Neil Mattinson is the lead landscape designer within the Olympic Park

What we created

The Olympic Park is the largest new urban park in Europe in 150 years. My LDA Design team wanted to celebrate the English landscape. Inspired by the great London parks, such as Hyde Park, Regent’s Park and St James’s Park, we selected wild flowers that thrive on industrial soils. Species lost to this part of London are already coming back — including kingfishers, bats and eels.

My home

I live in a two-bedroom house in Brixton Hill. I moved there for the Olympic project and to head up the London team at LDA Design. I love it so much I intend to stay. There is a great buzz, cultural diversity and delicious food. Brixton’s architecture is rich and our street is clean and lined with trees.

Designers I admire

Flaminio Bertoni, the original Citroën DS designer; Philippe Starck for his cool interior design. I also respect Paul Smith for his humble background, work ethic and incredible brand.

London's greatest view

The view from Hungerford Bridge of the cityscape is spectacular, taking in St Paul’s, the Gherkin and the Shard. All Souls Church is also a favourite, especially the view of it from the Kings Arms pub on Great Titchfield Street. Skylon in the Royal Festival Hall has another amazing view.

Top DIY tip

Never underestimate the power of lighting. It makes places out of spaces and determines mood, ambience and function. Also, check out rockettstgeorge.co.uk for unusual homeware.

* Find out more about Neil’s work at lda-design.co.uk

Pernilla Ohrstedt and Asif Khan
Khan and Ohrstedt designed one of the park's most successful installations, the Beatbox


Pernilla Ohrstedt and Asif Khan created the stunning Coca-Cola Beatbox in the Olympic Park

What we created

PO & AK: it is an experimental fusion of architecture, sport, music and technology. Musicians Mark Ronson and Katy B’s track sits at the heart of our design. The giant crystalline structure is made of 200 interlocked translucent air cushions, each the size of a billboard. Visitors can “play” cushions as they ascend the exterior of the pavilion, remixing the track.

Where we live

PO: I live in the Brunswick Centre, Bloomsbury. My flat has two bedrooms, an open-plan living room, winter garden and sunny balcony. I love the light, the simplicity of the layout and the concrete A frames of the building.
AK: my home is in Bow, just south of Victoria Park, overlooking Wennington Green. It is near where Rachel Whiteread’s House (1993) sculpture was sited. A neighbour, the artist Peter Liversidge, has become one of my best friends and collaborators. My house is 2.6 metres (8 1/2ft) wide, one of the narrowest in London, but the roof garden has a view of the Olympic Stadium.

The Coca-Cola Beatbox in the Olympic Park
© Getty Images
The Coca-Cola Beatbox in the Olympic Park

My dream house

AK: I long to buy a penthouse at the Wells Coates-designed Thirties block Ten Palace Gate in Kensington. My grandfather had a flat there and it still feels like returning home when I pass by.

Inspiring city landmark

PO: the Anteros (god of requited love) statue at Piccadilly Circus [often called Eros] which was designed by Alfred Gilbert in 1893, is both desired and overlooked but it is an amazing feat of construction for its time.
AK: St Paul’s Cathedral. Christopher Wren — need I say more? You can see this and our Beatbox pavilion in one view from the top of Anish Kapoor’s Orbit tower in the Olympic Park.

Capital’s best-kept secret

AK: the Top O’the Morning pub in Cadogan Terrace, by the Victoria Park entrance to the Olympic Park, is a haven from the madness.
PO: Imperial & Standard, a small vintage shop on the corner of Felstead Street in Hackney Wick.

Most coveted design object

PO: an Eero Saarinen marble table for that incredible Finnish/American feel.
AK: Poul Kjaerholm PK71 nesting tables symbolise a defining moment in minimal design. I first encountered them as a child at the house of my extremely sophisticated late aunt who bought beautiful things in the Sixties.

Clare Woods
Clare Woods and one of her Games murals
* For more on Pernilla and Asif’s work, visit pernilla-asif.com


Clare Woods is the artist behind the murals in the Olympic Park

What I created

After years of studying tiles in London, from those in the Underground to the tiles in historic pubs, I knew I wanted to use them, in a contemporary way, for two wall murals I was asked to create for the Olympic Park. The inspiration for the designs came from the site where the park was built: its layered industrial history, its maps, and my own experience of the area over 15 years.

Where I live

I’m renovating a Georgian farmhouse in Kington, a Herefordshire market town. What I most want for my studio there is a Joe Colombo Boby Trolley in orange.

Inspiring landmark

I love The Monument, by Sir Christopher Wren, in the City. Its staircase is austere yet beautiful and at the top the flamboyant gold flames marking the Fire of London are an unexpected contrast. The views are great, too.

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