The Olympic Influence: How the Games Have Shaped London’s Design and Architecture
Clare (from UK based furniture design specialists, the Wooden Furniture Store ) chooses three structures that she believes best reflects how the Olympic ideals and values have been interpreted – and how they’ve influenced an architectural legacy for London that will last for generations.
A global audience of billions will tune in to witness the pinnacle of athletic achievement during the London 2012 Games. But as the events play out in magnificent new sports arenas and buildings across the capital, how has the Olympic ethos been incorporated into these structures?
How the games were won – the promise of a lasting legacy
To understand this, we need to look back to July 2005 when Juan Antonio Samaranch announced to the World that “….the Games of the 2012 Olympiad is awarded to the City of…..London!”, it was revealed that the decision to host the games in the City was based in large part on the promised legacy that the games would provide. Many benefits were promised of hosting the games but a major focus was the re-generation of deprived inner-city areas; London would embark on an ambitious programme of building and architectural exploration that would benefit all the people of the City during the games, and for many years afterwards. Aspects of the Olympic motto – “faster, higher, stronger” – can be evidenced in the most iconic buildings of the 2012 games, and here are the structures that Clare considers to be the Gold medal favourites…
The Aquatics Centre
The brainchild of Zaha Hadid, internationally renowned architect, the stunning Aquatics Centre is the first experience that most visitors will enjoy as they arrive at the Olympic Park; the walkway over the canal into the park is incorporated into the roof of the building and welcomes visitors into the Games – perfectly setting the scene for the drama and excitement that will be witnessed inside.
The striking design is breathtaking and practical in equal measure; the seating will be removed and re-located for the Rio games in 2016. As one of the most challenging engineering aspects of the Olympic Park construction, the roof of the Aquatic Centre has a skeletal structure positioned on top of only a supporting wall at the southern side of the building and dual concrete supports at the north end. Comprising of three swimming pools, the whole 3,000 ton construction was transported upwards by 1.3m in a single motion and re-located down on to its new concrete supports. Without question, the Aquatics Centre is a unique facility for London, putting sport at the heart of the promised legacy of regeneration.
The Velodrome achieves a sense of dynamic movement in material form; Hopkins Architects achieved this by implementing the wood-clad wavy roof, a structure beautifully in tune with its desired purpose. To provide structural rigidity to the fluid design the cable net roofing is strung with steel cables – to reduce the volume of material needed but also beautifully conveying the feeling of movement that perfectly reflects the Olympic cycling events. In order to produce a record breaking cycle track the venue’s designers worked very closely with a specially commissioned panel (including Olympic cycle champion Chris Hoy) to ensure that the track geometry, environmental conditions and temperature control created the perfect conditions for Olympic winning performances.
The Orbit Observation Tower
The designers (Kapoor and Balmond) wanted to create a challenging structure that visitors can engage with directly, and so the incorporated spiral walkway surrounding the central tower was conceived. This allows visitors to experience the combination of structural engineering and sculpture close up – the intention of the architects was to create a radical progression and provide a sense stability and instability at the same time, portrayed by the core central structure and the winding, irregular walkway respectively; perhaps a sense of struggle between balance and instability are being played with here. The Orbit has been praised for its bold and unique design and has already secured its status as an iconic Olympic architectural feature for years to come.
What do the experts think?
- “The new Olympic Park will be a fantastic place and will help to regenerate east London. The designs show exciting sculptural form and will enhance the landscape.” – Lord Richard Rogers
- “I’m most impressed by the Olympic Stadium. Not just because it is impressive but because it’s actually so simple. For me that is what some of the best architecture is about.” – Paul Davis, architect and RIBA representative
- “Seeing the project at this stage is an amazing celebration of British engineering, as well as British architecture, particularly the Olympic Stadium, Aquatics Centre and Velodrome, which will provide a lasting legacy for London.” – Joanna Averley, deputy chief executive of CABE.
What do you think? Do you have any thoughts on the effect the London 2012 has had on London’s skyline? Add your comments below.