Raising the roof

18 Nov 2009

Roof structure in place at Zaha Hadid's 2012 Aquatics Centre

The wave-shaped Aquatics Centre roof has been successfully lifted and lowered into place completing what was one of the most complex engineering and construction challenges of the Olympic Park ‘big build’. The Aquatics Centre is on track to finish in summer 2011 ready for test events with the concrete dive pool also complete and work well underway on the two 50m competition and training pools.

The 160m long sweeping roof frame of the Zaha Hadid designed Aquatics Centre, weighing over 3000 tonnes and resting on just three concrete supports, will be the gateway to the Olympic Park. In legacy the venue will provide two 50m swimming pools, a diving pool and dry diving area for community and elite use. The 'big lift' of the roof began in March. A huge 30m steel truss weighing over 70 tonnes was lifted into place on top of the southern wall and connected to ten steel trusses each made up of four sections which in total will span up to 120m to the two northern roof supports.

The roof steel was fabricated in Newport from plate rolled in Gateshead, Motherwell and Scunthorpe, assembled on the Aquatics Centre site and connected together 20m off the ground on temporary supports. The completed roof frame was then carefully lifted over 1m at one end and lowered into its permanent position with the temporary supports removed in phases to enable work to continue beneath the roof, including the digging out and concreting of the venue’s two 50 metre swimming pools and 25 metre diving pool.

Once the steel frame was complete it was lifted over a metre at its southern end, turning on rotating joints in the northern roof supports. The top of the temporary trestles was removed and the 160m long roof frame lowered on to its three permanent roof supports.

As the full weight of the roof rested on its supports it slid approximately 20cm into its joints on the southern wall. The roof has been designed to stretch, twist and contract in response to the effects of snow, wind and changing temperatures.

London 2012 Organising Committee Chairman Sebastian Coe said: “The Aquatics Centre is going to be a spectacular venue for the Games in 2012 and its unique roof will be a wonderful addition to the east London skyline. At Games-time, 17,500 excited spectators will be able to ‘raise the roof’ cheering on the swimmers, including our British medal hopefuls, and in legacy it will become a much-needed elite and community facility. We are making great progress – and are fully on track with this iconic gateway to the Olympic Park.”

Work will begin this autumn on the aluminium roof covering, half of which is recycled, and early next year installation will start on the timber cladding of the12,000 sq m ceiling which will sweep outside to cover the northern roof supports. Red Lauro from sustainable sources has been selected as the ceiling timber that will combine the required level of durability and visual impact.

Work is well underway on the 250m and 45m wide land bridge that forms the main pedestrian entrance to the Games from the Stratford City development, spanning the Aquatics Centre and forming the roof of the training pool.

Key Facts

United Kingdom
Sport in architecture

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