Design and the Olympics 2: Olympic Architecture


Image via Art Design Cafe

This year’s Olympics have been quite eventful and a pleasure to watch, both in terms of the games themselves, the stories surrounding the games, as well as the landscape in which the games are taking place. Much like other summer games, London has sprouted a slew of new structures, specially designed for the events.

Olympic Stadium by Populous Architects (International)

Image via Wikimedia Commons

The Olympic stadium, which acts as the cradle for the track and field events and acts as the main event space is also usually the main architectural feature for the games. This year’s stadium in London was designed by Populous, an international architectural firm that was previously known as HOK sport.

Image via Dezeen

Image from Dezeen

The stadium features a convertible design that will allow the now 80,000-seat stadium to downsize to a 25,000-seat arena that will be used for different types of events aside from sports. The demountable design, the first of its kind for an Olympic stadium, is a response to the problem of long-term use for an Olympic arena and its integration with the needs of the community.

Aquatic Center by Zaha Hadid Architects

Image via Zaha Hadid Architects

The aquatic center is perhaps my favorite architectural feature of this year’s games. Zaha Hadid’s futuristic and fluid aesthetic was a fitting match for the water sports. The design’s dynamic lines give the hard concrete construction an organic feel. The combined effect of the architecture and program is thus a literal immersion of water, and every event associated with it.

Image by Zaha Hadid Architects

Image by Zaha Hadid Architects

Much like the stadium, the aquatics center also features a demountable design, that will allow the design to adapt to the needs of the community once the Olympic games are over. After the games, seating as well as game-specific areas such as the athletes’ waiting areas, and judging and score control.

Velodrome by Hopkins Architects (UK)

Image via Milimet Design

Host to both the Olympic and paralympic cycling events, the Velodrome is one of the Olympic venues that remain in essence the same after the games. The design of the Velodrome was conceived by Hopkins Architects, a firm from the UK.

Image via East London Advertiser

Image via Hopkins Architects

The Velodrome’s design was conceived to be “lightweight and efficient,” to reflect the same characteristics of the cycles used in the events that will take place inside it. The outside geometry also serves as a reflection of inside track’s. Much like the other big venues, it was designed with a sense of sustainability as well.

ArcelorMittal Orbit by Anish Kapoor

Image via Art Log

As part of the attractions of the Olympic park, award-winning artist Anish Kapoor was commissioned by London’s local government to design a new public art work, that will also add to the legacy of the games. The 115-meter high sculpture Kapoor realized is now thought to be the tallest sculpture in the UK. The sculpture resembles a space-age roller coaster, made from tubular steel formed into lattices that also serve as structural support. Views into voids and the spaces formed by the structural steel present Kapoor’s unique sense of perception and aesthetic that gained him a Turner Prize.

Image via Arch Daily courtesy ArcelorMittal

Image from Arch Daily by Gautier Deblonde

Kapoor designed the piece in collaboration with structural engineer Cecil Balmund of Arup. London’s Mayor Boris Johnson envisioned the sculpture to help keep the spirit of the games alive long after they are over.

Throughout the architecture of this year’s games, sustainability and the “legacy” of the Olympic village was certainly a theme. It represents a growing trend in contemporary architecture that also considers the needs of the community and environment when conceptualizing, designing, and building these new icons. It will definitely be exciting to see what the future will bring to these structures of sportsmanship.

Enjoy the rest of the games everyone!

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