Don't give 2012 stadium to West Ham, says its architect

Populous principal Rod Sheard would prefer a non-sporting tenant

The architect who designed the Olympic Stadium has said he would rather see the venue used for pop concerts than handed to current frontrunner West Ham United.

The comments by Populous senior principal Rod Sheard come just days after the London Legacy Development Corporation decided to re-open the tender process for a long-term operator.

Sheard told BD: “My personal view is if it can find a solution that brings in the income but does not have to resort to professional sport that would be nice. I think it could be an outdoor amphitheatre. It’s got good travel links and is a good setting.”

His remarks could leave some red faces at Populous, which was hired by West Ham to work on its bid to become the main tenant of the stadium from 2014 onwards, though Sheard said he didn’t work on the West Ham proposals.

He said that holding pop concerts and other events would be enough to pay for its expected £5 million-a-year running costs and added the length of the August-May football season meant the stadium would be too “inflexible” for non-football events.

But Sheard admitted turning it into a football ground was still the most likely option once the games are over. “It would be a brave politician not to choose football. Whatever they want to do with it, it can cope with. It can be knocked down, it can be an 80,000 seat stadium and everything in between. I think athletics will be there, the only question is what will be its bedfellow.”

Last week Legacy Corporation chief executive Andrew Altman said a decision on the long-term role for the Olympic Stadium would now be taken after this summer’s games. A provisional deal for West Ham, which won promotion back to the Premier League at the weekend, to move to the stadium collapsed in October. A winner will now be chosen this October with the stadium re-opening as originally intended in 2014.

Sheard added that the stadium had now brushed off its initial criticism and was a one-off. “I really like the controversial nature of what we’ve done in London,” he said. “I like the idea that the architectural community can’t get its head round it.”

And he said the stadium, which has put its temporary nature at the heart of the design, had been deliberately designed to be a non-icon. “Beijing was the pinnacle of the icon. An aspiring city wouldn’t have done this [temporary] solution. It needed a confident city like London to do it. There is something uniquely British about the stadium, the sheer confidence of saying ‘bugger it, we’re going to break the mould’.”


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