The UK’s most sustainable ice centre has opened in east London. The Lee Valley Ice Centre (LVIC) in Waltham Forest is a £30m Lee Valley Park Authority project to create two Olympic-sized ice rinks, a gym, studios, café and community space on the site of a no longer fit for purpose single rink venue. LDA Design is responsible for the £1.5m landscape transformation which will help realise the ecological potential as part of the wider Lee Valley Regional Park.
The site is adjacent to the River Lea. Former amenity grasslands are now native wildflower meadows. One hundred and fifty three native trees have been planted including yew, hazel, alder, willow and lime, plus 28 Black Poplars from cuttings harvested locally. Black poplars were once used to mark field boundaries on floodplains such as Walthamstow Marshes.
The landscape along the northern edge of the site has been designed to create a green corridor to allow numerous species of invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles and small mammals to safely connect between the woodland areas to the east and west of the site. Bird and bat boxes, insect hotels and hedgehog shelters have been installed within the woodland.
A large former overflow car park to the east of the Centre and adjacent to Lea Bridge Road has been replaced with native species of trees, shrubs and wildflower meadow, to create and expand key habitat types and enrich local biodiversity.
In a UK first, ice melt from the rinks will be treated and used to help new plants establish and to create biodiverse rich ponds. Along with rainwater from the roof and improvements to nearby watercourses, ice melt water will help transform a near stagnant nearby pond, Oxbow Lake, into free flowing and oxygenated water.
The sustainable drainage system includes the introduction of generous bioswales planted with native trees, shrubs and perennials suitable for wet and dry conditions.
Each side of LVIC is designed to support nature and create microclimates for lichens and mosses. Stone filled gabion baskets front the building, incorporating bat boxes and supporting insects and small birds. Native climbers will feed butterflies and bees. Berry-laden ivy provides for birds in autumn. Swift boxes have been installed in the Ice Centre’s eastern elevation. Nectar-rich honeysuckle will attract night-flying insects, to feed a native bat population. Two large bespoke design bicycle shelters are topped by native biodiverse green roofs and insect hotels on each of the ends.
Dan Buck, Corporate Director, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority comments, “This entire project has had sustainability at its heart right from the very beginning. We wanted to make huge improvements to the area around the Lee Valley Ice Centre and connect it with the wider landscape of the park. The whole project has a host of positive impacts – an important one is the fabulous context in which the building sits. We hope the evolving landscape and public realm will feel an important part of the visitor experience right from the start.”
Joanna Asia Milewska, project lead for LVIC, says that the entire landscape design was pointed at enhancing the health and variety of ecosystems, drawing on research and local knowledge. “The landscape and ecological enhancements provide an opportunity for the re-colonisation of typical marshland species, reconnecting us to the history of the place which a few hundred years ago used to be part of Broad Marshes.”