What do the 1.6m visitors who attend trade fairs at Olympia Exhibition Centre every year make of its ailing Victorian infrastructure, soulless eateries and traffic clogged surroundings? It’s a far cry from the 21st-century image of modernity that the capital wants to project, and a poor relation to venues in other event-focused cities such as Paris and Frankfurt. However, initial designs unveiled today by London’s Heatherwick Studio and SPPARC architects reveal that by around 2023 Olympia will be a top tier event space and a new cultural quarter.

The £700m transformation sees improved links between all four of the 130-year-old exhibition halls, a newly-opened roof area topped with a glass dome and underground parking. More than 55,000 sq m of new co-working and studio space will lure creative workers to this part of west London, and a theatre, music venue and cinema will attract visitors beyond those with trade show tickets. Public spaces buzzing with independent eateries, cafes, bars and hotels will ensure that Olympia becomes a destination in itself.  

The next step in the building’s ambitious reinvention is the submition of the planning application, which is scheduled for September 2018

It is the latest project of British real estate developer John Hitchcox , who joined forces with Deutsche Finance to raise the development funds. Since founding Yoo with Philippe Starck in 1998, Hitchcox has created more than 80 projects across the globe, working with a roster of design stars, from Marcel Wanders to Jade Jagger and Steve Leung. ‘As caretakers of Olympia, we are investing to protect this iconic site and promote it on the global stage as a world-leading destination for the creative industries,’ he says, and with the demolition of nearby Earls Court Exhibition Centre in 2017, he laments a dearth of suitable events venues in London.

Heatherwick and SPPARC are both making their marks elsewhere in the capital too; SPPARC’s Music Box is a cubed-shaped campus in Bankside set to become a new home for the London College of Creative Media, and this autumn, Coal Drops Yard, Heatherwick’s over-9,000 sq m retail quarter in Kings Cross, opens. §

Read more about Heatherwick Studio projects here