Olympics Architecture Highlights: The great (and not so great) designs for the Games…
Art & Architecture Journal's Jeremy Hunt knows his stuff. Today, he takes us from fish to Tibetan shrines with a look at the spanking new built structures for the Olympics and what will happen to them when the athletes leave (and look out for Jeremy on Olympic Art tomorrow)...
Words: Jeremy Hunt
The 1948 London Olympics was the last to award medals for singing, painting, dancing and poetry. Fast-forward 64 years and London 2012 has created some beautiful alpha-ego architecture, a collection of interesting art, and an overwhelming programme of events.
The immediate result is a corporately cleansed and dehistoricized urban space in the east end of London. But culture will always struggle for status in the context of a televised sports festival controlled through the protocol of the International Olympic Committee, dominated by corporate endorsements, and a political and media platform for promotion of brand UK.
The largest budget for art and culture, of over £80million, is being spent on the pyrotechnics and mass dance routines for a global media audience. The Cultural Olympiad seems preoccupied with touchy-feely street engagement and inclusiveness bordering on cultural evangelism. Yet some of the most memorable art to emerge in response to the Olympics has been generated by artists, writers, filmmakers, academics, photographers and activists who feel dispossessed and displaced by the Games pantechnicon.Architecture for the Olympics: An introduction
It's all about construction and concrete. The Olympics architectural infrastructure involves 29 venues hosting 26 Olympic and 21 Paralympic sports over 27 days, plus all the temporary pavilions and fast-food outlets...
The Olympic Park architecture includes Zaha Hadid's Aquatic Centre, Hopkins Architects' Velodrome, and the athletics stadium designed by Populous. Make Architects/Populous designed the Copper Box, for handball and fencing, which will become a multi-purpose sports centre. Service buildings include (as well as Allies and Morrison's Media Centre) John McAslan's Olympic Energy Centre, and John Lyall Architects' Olympic Park Pumping Station to channel grey waste. Two reusable structures are Wilkinson Eyre's Basketball Stadium in the Olympic Park, and Magma Architecture's Shooting Range, sited in Woolwich.
HG Wells might have liked it...
Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond / Ushida Findlay Architects: Archelor Mittal Orbit
"Despite the fact that it is sculpture it is a structure. Before it is a structure it is a sculpture". The £22.7m, ruby red, 114.5-metre high ArcelorMittal Orbit (AM Orbit) is an iconic archi-tourist-sculpture hybrid based on the geometry of a six-pointed star. A stabile sculpture, landmark structure and public viewing platform it is accessed by two lifts and exited by a staircase of 455 steps. The 5,560 metres of tubular steel are illuminated by 250 coloured spotlights.
It includes additional sculptural elements by Kapoor: A canopy at the base has a concave floor with a view through a funnel looking up from dark to light. On the upper level of the viewing platform two concave mirrors are placed on the external walkway to invert the horizon and visitors will be able to look down through a central rectangular void or annulus. It is an architectural fantasy in the spirit of Tatlin's Tower, Vladimir Tatlin's unrealised monument for the Third International in Petrograd in 1920; and part science fiction: "Seen nearer, the Thing was incredibly strange, for it was no mere insensate machine driving on its way. Machine it was, with a ringing metallic pace, and long, flexible, glittering tentacles" H.G. Wells. The War of the Worlds, Book 1, Chapter 10.
The Gold goes to...
Zaha Hadid's The London Aquatic Centre
The £244m LAC contains two 50-metre pools for events, training and a 25-metre diving pool and is the architectural star of the Olympic Park. The curved shape - double-curvature geometry that creates a structure of parabolic arches - represents fish-like fluidity and the motion of water. The building has a double height to allow maximum spectator viewing for 17,500 people during the Games.
Legacy value? Post-Games, its temporary box additions will be removed to create a 3,500 capacity venue.
Populous with Peter Cook: London 2012 Olympic Stadium
The main stadium for the Olympic and Paralympics is a strangely anonymous, ego-free structure, although it will have a £7m temporary external corporate advertising wrapper, 900-metre long and 20-metre high, funded by Union Carbide. It is the centrepiece for track and field events and beneath the wrap it has an exterior skeletal frame of white painted steel zigzag columns creating a triangle/pyramid motif that repeats in the floodlights and in the black and white pattern of the seating.
Legacy value? It has a capacity of 80,000 seats but has been designed to shrink to become a modest 25,000 capacity athletics venue, or more likely, rebuilt as a soccer stadium for West Ham United (or more improbably the original O's, Leyton Orient).
Made in Tibet...?
Hopkins Architects: London 2012 Velodrome
The £93m velodrome has been dug out to create a hidden bowl and stadium, and the velopark is set on raised landscape, which suggests a shrine for a Tibetan sky burial. The structure is, however, more urban in concept and the architects were inspired by the bicycle as the epitomy of ergomomic and engineering efficiency. The elegant wooden exterior and geometry of the building was designed to reflect the shape of the cycling track and is clad in Western Red Cedar.
Legacy value? The stadium has 6000 seats and is one of the permanent additions to the Olympic Park.
Magma Architecture: Olympic Shooting Venue
The three shooting ranges at the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich are contemporary architectural fairground tents. The façades of the three structures have a white, PVC membrane each demarcated with vibrant red, pink and blue coloured holes protruding from the skin to provide natural ventilation and lighting. Disarmingly, the coloured circles might be described as giant bullet holes, a case of architectural expression encapsulating the activity of the shooting competition.
Legacy value? These are flexible, sustainable, landmark buildings that will be reassembled for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Look out for Jeremy Hunt's guide to Olympic Art, from the official to the unofficial, tomorrow.
Click here to read his Guest Guide to Postmodern Architecture.
Sorry no reviews have been returned.
Opera & Dance