John, who was 59, was project sponsor for the Olympic Parklands and Public Realm at the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) from 2007 to 2011. He selected and led the team that developed more than 250 acres of green space, providing a vibrant atmosphere for the Games and a sustainable platform for the London Legacy Development Corporation to double the amount of green space in the new Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which is due to re-open in stages from this summer.
John, who was a leading landscape architect, urban designer and environmental planner, possessed a wealth of experience in regional planning, site design and implementation. Prior to joining the ODA, he was a partner at LDA Design, heading up their London office. His career took him across the world as he practiced in Malaysia, Australia, Hong Kong and the United States.
Born in Liverpool, John graduated in Landscape Architecture from Thames Polytechnic, followed by a Masters at Louisiana State University in the United States. He was a Fellow of the Landscape Institute and a Churchill Fellow in urban design, in addition to being a Corporate Member of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Leaving the ODA as the Olympic parklands project neared completion, he moved to America, where he was a Visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, while holding a similar role at the University of Greenwich in London. John had also been leading a consulting team advising on Shelby Farms Park in Memphis, Tennessee, a 4,500-acre green space, in addition to completing a study which would form part of landscape management strategy for Network Rail in the UK.
His work had been recognised by the Landscape Institute’s Peter Youngman Award for Outstanding Contribution to Landscape, and by the Royal Town Planning Institute, Hong Kong Institute of Landscape Architects and the Civic Trust.
John was also an established author and contributor. He had been researching and writing a book on ecological planning and design based on ‘One Planet Living’ themes, called The Global Garden, Ecological Economics and Infrastructure, and in late 2012, with former colleague Peter Neal, was the co-author of The Making of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Sir John Armitt, Chairman of the ODA, said: “We are all shocked by the sad news of John Hopkins’ passing. He was pivotal in shaping and then delivering our vision of an important new park transforming this part of London. So many people delighted in seeing the parklands and public open spaces last summer – which will now be an enduring legacy of John’s work. Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this sad time.”
Dennis Hone, Chief Executive of the ODA and London Legacy Development Corporation said: “John’s contribution towards the creation of the UK’s largest new urban park for more than a century is immeasurable. His breadth of knowledge in landscape architecture ensured the parklands were the hidden treasure for many spectators during the Games, and his energy will live on as the park reopens for generations of visitors to enjoy.”
Sir Nicholas Serota, Director Tate and former ODA Board member, said: “The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park owes its form and its success to the vision and determination of John Hopkins. His imagination brought unexpected new features to the original plan, while his watchful eye ensured that quality and sustainability would be the hallmarks of the largest urban park created in England in more than a hundred years. His recent book on the Park, co-edited with Peter Neal, is a testament to his ambition and will serve as a bible for the next generation of landscape designers”.
Sue Ilman, Landscape Institute President, said: “It is with great sadness and regret that I heard of John’s death: sadness for the loss of someone who not only ‘inspired a generation’, but also inspired great admiration and affection amongst those he met; and regret, for the loss of a person with such vision, clear-thinking and so many plans he still wished to pursue. He will be greatly missed.”
John’s fiancée Laura Adams, who is Executive Director at Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, said: “In many ways he was an iconoclast; a man who knew what he stood for and was unafraid to tell the truth. He never let us forget the urgency of our responsibility toward our environment, but he was thoughtful, with the patience and humility to plan and design projects whose real benefit can only be truly appreciated by a generation he’ll never know.”
John is survived by his daughter Rosie and son Jack, his fianceé Laura Adams, sister Patricia Hopkins, brother Kevin Hopkins and Rosie and Jack’s mother Jill.