Architecture at the 2012 London Olympics

Every night this week my family has been enthralled with all things Olympic.  My children are watching, tumbling, swimming and playing volleyball.  Suddenly we are all experts; comparing archery stances, road race strategies for cycling and of course, who is a better swimmer, Ryan or Michael.

I enjoy watching the Olympics for a number of reasons; seeing different kinds of sports, diversity of people and costumes at the opening ceremonies, trying to imagine how all those people can fit in London, estimating how much food it would take to feed all those athletes and this year especially, the amazing buildings that house the two week event.  These buildings are beautiful pieces of art that have been years in the making.

Here are my favorite buildings of the 2012 London Olympics:

1.  Basketball Stadium – made of over 2 million pounds of steel, this is the one of the largest temporary buildings ever used for the Olympics.  It’s steel frame is covered with 215,000 square feet of recyclable plastic membrane stretched over 3 types of arches to create the textured exterior walls.  At night, artistic displays of light cover the walls, the membrane acting as a canvas.  After the games, this building will be deconstructed until used at another site.  It is basically a huge tent!

2.  Velodrome (aka the Pringle) – I love the shape of this building, the exterior is a hyberbolic parabolic shape, resembling the cycling track found inside.  It is one of the 4 permanent venues created for the Olympics in London.  Its exterior walls are made of red cedar, and its roof is made of ultra-lightweight cable net structure.  Because of its efficient and sustainable design, this building won the Prime Minister’s Better Public Building Award as a part of the British Construction Industry Awards.

3.  Aquatic Centre – the interior and exterior of this building is curvy and smooth, like waves in the water.  The amazing part of this building is although it is a permanent structure, after the Olympic games are over the two “wings” on each side of the curved center building will be removed, reducing the capacity from 17,500 to 2000 spectators.

I cannot end this blog without at least mentioning the interesting steel structure that is visible just next to the Aquatic Centre, named the ArcelorMittal Orbit. It is a large tower, taller than the Statue of Liberty, with a steel structure resembling a roller-coaster track spiraling at all angles around the tower.  Despite London’s mayor calling it “Britain’s answer to the Eiffel tower”, there has been much negative public reaction to the futuristic looping structure of steel.  Maybe in the future I will think “Wow – how beautiful”, I’m just not there yet.