Architects and the Olympics

Thursday 07 Mar 2013

London 2012 Olympics architects speak out on designs in new RIBA film

The architects behind some of the London 2012 Olympics’ most high-profile buildings and structures have spoken out for the first time in a video about the inspiration behind and public reaction to the projects. The video ‘Designing for Champions’ focuses on the London 2012 Velodrome, Beatbox, the Basketball Arena, Acoustic Stage and the Cauldron and was sponsored by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) and New London Architecture (NLA).

The release of the film marks the lifting of a banning order by the UK government which prevented many architects and engineers from promoting and marketing their Olympic designs and extensive campaigning by the sponsors of the video to lift the ‘gagging’ order. Angela Brady, the RIBA president, said of the film: “I am delighted that we were able to access the Olympic Park site to make this film and to shout about the amazing contribution made by so many architects, structural engineers and design teams which created the most memorable, innovative and sustainable Olympics to date.”

In the film, Mike Taylor of Hopkins Architects, mentions how the design of a bicycle influenced the eventual structure of the London 2012 Velodrome, saying that they 'wanted the fastest velodrome in the world, the best atmosphere, the best acoustics and so we looked very closely at all the factors that would influence a performance'.

This was achieved by wrapping the seats tightly around the track and then wrapping the building very tightly around the seats to give a 'direct communication between the geometry of the track and the outside of the building' which helped to keep costs down and contain the acoustics of the building. A key aspect of the London Olympics’ architecture was sustainability and this can be seen in the temporary building Basketball Arena, with its architect Jim Eyre of Wilkinson Eyre Architects commenting: “I think there is a real future for temporary buildings, particularly the Olympics.”

However, while the building is temporary and many of the building’s components can be reused by contractors, innovative design solutions such as ‘horizontal arches’ were fitted into the skin of the building to form the distinctive curved facade, as well as using lighting at night, which Jim Eyre said 'gave [the Basketball Arena] more atmosphere'. The video also looks at smaller designs, such as the Beatbox, designed by Asif Khan, who said 'the idea was to create a building you can experience like a musical instrument and...that you can play like a musical instrument' by using sounds from sports.

The Acoustic Stage, another temporary structure, was designed to create an intimate space for visitors to enjoy music with architect Jason Flanagan of Flanagan Lawrence (previously BFLS Architects) first designing the interior space and then wrapping in the simplest form to create a shell-like shape. Showing how these structures sparked the public’s imagination, the architects involved in the schemes said how nicknames had been given to both the buildings with the Beatbox being dubbed the Hedgehog and the Acoustic Stage called Sharky by some visitors.

A special ‘Designing for Champions’ Design Award ceremony will be hosted by the RIBA, IStructE and NLA on July 23 at the RIBA with the event focusing on the contribution made by architects, structural and civil engineers, landscapers and designers to the London Olympics.

Naomi Wilcock

Key Facts:

Want to submit your project to World Architecture News?

Contact The Team