London 2012 Announces Art Trees to Take Root in the Olympic Park

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London 2012 announces a major public art commission will see a collection of large trees – each supporting a bespoke metal ring weighing up to half-a-tonne - planted to mark the entrances to the 500-acre Olympic Park

Art trees to take root in the Olympic Park

Art trees to take root in the Olympic Park

Our plans for the Olympic Park after the Games are more advanced than any other Olympic host city, and commissions like this will help make the Park a compelling place for visitors to enjoy

London 2012 announces a major public art commission will see a collection of large trees – each supporting a bespoke metal ring weighing up to half-a-tonne - planted to mark the entrances to the 500-acre Olympic Park.

Planning permission has been granted for the art work, which was developed by renowned British artists Ackroyd and Harvey, and funded by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and Arts Council England as a permanent reminder of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The ten trees will be the largest in the Olympic Park – reaching up to 18 metres tall (see Notes to Editor for a list of species and locations). Three species will take root in time for the Games and the remaining seven will be planted in legacy. Once planted, each tree will have a large ring, engineered from either phosphored bronze or stainless steel and weighing up to 500kg, securely placed in the crown. The tree branches and ring will slowly fuse together over time.

Two of the Games-time trees – a Red Oak and a Silver Lime - were planted over the weekend with the remaining tree - a Common Ash - to arrive early next year. The metal rings will be fitted next Spring. The trees have been sourced through a British nursery and have been selected to reflect the diversity of the wider area and the international spirit of the Games.

The rings will be six metres in diameter and engraved on the interior face with text capturing an archive of history in nine of the ten locations. The tenth tree – an English Oak – will hold a bronze ring inscribed with local residents’ recollections of the area. The shadow cast by this ring will be permanently captured by being inlayed onto the ground in bronze, and each year the shadow and ring will momentarily align to commemorate the a significant date and time during the London 2012 Games.

Ackroyd and Harvey said: 'Trees mark the passing of time through their yearly ring growth. The artwork will transform as the seasons change, reflecting the evolving nature of the Olympic Park. The trees embrace metal rings which have been engraved with a record of the site’s history, held in branches for successive decades to come.'

ODA Chairman John Armitt: 'The Olympic Park has been built with sustainability at the heart of its design. These ten trees will become a strong symbol of the Games and reinforce a commitment to the creation of Britain’s largest urban park for over a century. They will act as fantastic meeting points for both spectators next summer and visitors for generations to come.'

Moira Sinclair, London Executive Director of Arts Council England, said: 'The Olympic Park will be one of the largest urban parks created in Europe for many years. We believe that arts and culture play a really important role in helping to create a sense of place, and we are thrilled to be part of the team working hard to put the arts into the very fabric of the area. This art work in the trees is, in every sense, rooted in the locality and, we hope, will bring joy and delight during and after the Games, as well as for future generations to come.'

Andrew Altman, Chief Executive of the Olympic Park Legacy Company, said:
'This major public art commission will be enjoyed for generations to come as the trees and rings become one and grow in parallel with the development of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

'Our plans for the Olympic Park after the Games are more advanced than any other Olympic host city, and commissions like this will help make the Park a compelling place for visitors to enjoy'

The nine history rings will encapsulate a broad range of information relevant to each location, drawing on sources as varied as the Museum of London archaeological surveys, ecological studies and details of businesses that had previously inhabited the site. The tenth ring embraces the nature of the Olympic Park as experienced by communities living around the five Host Boroughs through personal accounts.

As part of the project, the ODA has also commissioned local artist Lucy Harrison to engage with local communities about this work. The Mapping Your Manor project has seen Lucy produce an audio soundtrack for each of the areas around the Entrance Markers, made in collaboration with local people. It was launched in December, with tracks available for download from:

Lucy worked in collaboration with local walking group, the Newham Striders, to explore the areas around the edge of the Park, and invited a range of people to be recorded - sharing their stories, memories, poems, songs and even cookery sessions. A book containing further information, images, and a text by local writer Iain Aitch, is also being published.

In addition to some 4,000 semi-mature trees, the Olympic Park features more than 300,000 wetland plants and in excess of ten football fields’ worth of nectar-rich annual and perennial meadows designed and sown to flower during the Games. One of the most significant trees to be planted on the park is an English Oak that will be placed in the riverside Royal Horticultural Society Great British Garden that overlooks the Olympic Stadium.

The ‘de Coubertin oak’ was grown at Kew Gardens from an acorn collected from the tree that Baron De Coubertin planted to thank the citizens of Much Wenlock for inspiring the founding of the modern Olympic Games. This historical reference provided the artists a rich source of research and inspiration.

Notes to Editor:
Location of trees:
Download CGI Images of the trees in their final form

The three Games-time sites will be:

  • Southern Access Approach: Tilia Tomentosa (Silver Lime) will be planted at the south of the site close to where the Greenway crosses the Waterworks River. Around 20 per cent of spectators will walk this route on entry to the Olympic Park.
  • Eton Manor Approach: Quercus rubra (Red Oak) will be located between two bridges on the

Eton Manor site.

  • Western Access Approach (Greenway): Fraxinus excelsior (Common Ash) has been chosen to take root in the south-western corner of the Park – an area of protected wildlife habitat. During Games-time it will form the western entrance point, primarily for local residents and cyclists.

The seven legacy sites will be:

  • Monier Road Approach: Catalpa bignonioides (Indian Bean) will be sited at an approach that will form a key entry route into the Park after the Games from the south-west, particularly for residents of Tower Hamlets.
  • Olympic Village Approach: Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn Redwood) will mark the entrance for athletes arriving at the Olympic Park from the Village.

Stratford City Approach: Quercus robur (English Oak) will be located to southeast of the Park, forming the main entrance/exit point. It is expected that around 68 per cent of spectators will arrive and depart through this route. This location will also see the physical shadow of the tenth (bronze) ring inlaid into the ground.

  • Waterden Road Approach: Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweet Gum) has been selected for an area accessed off the Lea Interchange and Temple Mills Cut, along the western edge of the Olympic Park.
  • Carpenters Road Underpass Approach: Fagus sylvatica ‘Atropunicea’ (Copper Beech) will be planted at the south-eastern edge of the site. The area, which lies below the Great Eastern Main Line railway, will form an important entrance into Park in both Games and legacy.
  • Temple Mills Approach: Quercus palustris (Pin Oak) has been chosen for the northeast of the Olympic Village, Temple Mill Lane and a bridge. This will form a main connection over the railway from Leyton into the site.
  • Hackney Wick Approach: Corylus colurna (Turkish Hazel) will be planted at a plot close to which the ODA will be delivering a bridge link over the River Lea into the Park. (This tree is subject to a different planning application because of the location being outside of the Olympic Park.


  • The trees will have a crown of around six metres and will reach full maturity over the next 25-30 years.
  • The trees have been prepared for transplantation over their entire growing life and hence have a dense and fibrous healthy root system. Attentive nurturing of the trees particularly in the first two years is instrumental to the trees surviving in the long-term.
  • The trees will be transported to the planting site on extendable low loader trailers then lifted by crane into a prepared planting pit before being guyed and the planting pit backfilled and the tree branches untied.
  • The attaching of metal rings to the trees causes no harm to the tree. Trees respond to impact damage by growing new tissue in a new place, covering over the point of contact. The tree chemically and anatomically forms new barriers and strengthens old barriers that protect its structural, transport and storage systems, and resist infection.
  • The ODA has worked closely with contractors and designers, who have consulted with the Tree Advice Trust, to ensure the most effective and safe method in terms of tree health for securing the rings into the branches.
  • Bronze and stainless steel were selected for the rings because of their qualities. Bronze has an enduring sculptural legacy, an organic quality and ages and weathers well. The bronze rings will be patinated, and the stainless steel rings will ‘shot-peened’, which gives it an enduring and robust finish.
  • The artists were advised by Expedition Engineering on the engineering and support structures for the rings
  • Each ring will be made in halves with machine-bolted connections at the two joints. These joins are designed to fix together invisibly.
  • The Museum of London has assisted the artists with the archaeological research and history of the site prior to the development, while the source of material for the tenth (bronze) ring has been informed through artist Lucy Harrison’s recordings with local residents.
  • The ODA Arts and Cultural Strategy Team have recently commissioned a comprehensive research and evaluation of their strategy and projects, in order to make recommendations for integrating arts and culture into other large scale developments. The report "Square Pegs and Round Holes" has been written by London's independent advisory body for public art Open City/Art in the Open.

For further information please contact the Olympic Delivery Authority Press Office on +44 (0)203 2012 700.


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