NORD architecture completes key utility building for London's Olympic Park
In 2007 NORD were appointed to work with the Olympic Delivery Authority to develop a strong contextual approach to a key utility building within the Olympic Park. The building, completed in January 2010, is not designed as an event in its own right but as part of a number of buildings that form the fabric of the Olympic site itself, having permanency, weight and dignity.
Strong emphasis has been placed on ensuring that the structure fits in with the design of the wider Olympic Park. Externally the architecture creates a sense of solidity appropriate to the building’s role as a key part of the utilities infrastructure in the Olympic Park. The 130,000 bricks used in the design also reflect the traditional use of dark brick stock in window and corner details on the former Kings Yard industrial buildings on the site.
At 80m long and made from ebony black brick the substation is legible at first as one uninterrupted surface, however the envelope is a more open lattice than it appears. In lower sections, the brick performs as a load-bearing structure, in others simply as a skin and in the upper sections it permits ventilation for the internal transformers.
Across the length of the building the height varies - the eastern tower was designed to be lower in height, facilitating a viewing corridor to the Olympic Stadium in the south-west, as well as a view to central London, St Paul’s and the Swiss Re tower.
Sustainability is at the heart of the substation design through the reuse of materials from the demolition of the former Kings Yard buildings. The building also includes a ‘brown roof’ which will allow species to naturally colonise the site, enhancing the ecological value and biodiversity of the Olympic Park site by attracting local wildlife. The roof’s weight supplements a blast protection strategy, one of many technically demanding aspects of a challenging brief.