Mention Olympia in London’s West Kensington and you will most likely struggle to find anyone, at least in the UK, who doesn’t immediately recognise the building and the brand. The name has national if not global recognition as an events venue. It is synonymous with major music and sporting events, such as the long running Olympia Horse Show, plus a long list of both well-known trade events and exhibitions and many more quite obscure ones.
Little wonder then, that such an iconic venue – which hosts over 200 events a year – is now the subject of a redevelopment plan to prepare it for the future and further exploit its potential. In this report we will look at what the project involves and what it might mean for both the venue and the area.
The current Olympia London was first built and opened as the National Agricultural Hall in 1886. It has undergone a number of renovations and expansions since, although most of these have been quite modest. The site was bought by current owners Deutsche Finance International (DFI) and Yoo Capital for £296m in 2017.
The latest redevelopment project, which was first proposed almost two years ago, and is designed by Heatherwick Studio and SPPARC, has an overall £1bn development value and can be described as truly ambitious. Far from just being a renovation it is a complete regeneration and redevelopment to better use and exploit the well-known and highly accessible location. The aim is to turn Olympia London into what is being called a ‘world leading arts, events, entertainment and experiential district fit for the next 100 years plus’.
The present owners have suggested that they believe some event organisers ‘look down’ on the current facilities at Olympia. They anticipate that the redevelopment to world class standards will enable the venue to win back exhibitions and events which have gone elsewhere in recent times, and attract new events that would not previously have considered the venue, such as the London Motor Show.