Saturday, September 15, 2012

Dismantling Olympic park

The Olympic Stadium. Architects Populous

One feature of attending the various venues at the London 2012 Olympic Games - and they were, mostly, excellent - was that they were obviously very temporary. Indeed, if I'd had enough forethought, I would have sunk some investment money into companies that provide temporary scaffold seating. They certainly had a lot of business for The Games. Many were the almost-but-not-quite rickety metal stairs I ascended and descended to watch Hockey or Swimming or Volleyball or Archery; or worried about the crowds getting too enthusiastic with their stomping and stamping.

In the case of Archery, the temporary arena was plonked in the middle of the hallowed turf of Lord's Cricket Ground. In the case of Volleyball, it was erected inside the cavernous exhibition space of Earl's  Court. The massive banks of seating in Hyde Park for Beach Volleyball and in Greenwich for the Equestrian events featured often in the news. These temporary billets supplemented the more permanent O2 arena - sorry, 'North Greenwich Arena' - which hosted basketball and Gymnastics; and the excellent Excel, and mile-long (it seemed) exhibition space where they managed to squash a record seven sports. It was, in fact, a terrific feature of this Olympics that the venues were spread all over London, some in iconic spots with great views.

But it was at out at Olympic Park, that massive space carved out of the wastelands of East London, that  I was a bit surprised to find so much temporary-ness. Sydney's own Olympic Park stands pretty much today as it was in 2000; but London's is being demolished as we speak, now that the Games are done and dusted. This is of course not necessarily a bad thing. Building many permanent venues is possibly far more expensive than supplementing a few with all these temporary shelters. And as far as I know, none of them fell down.

A strange view of the Swimming Centre
- that great lit white bit is temporary.

While no-one is likely to miss the intrusion on Hyde Park, and Lord's needs its ground back for the cricket, there are those missing Olympic Park already. Apparently it is to undergo a makeover. There was some talk of demolishing even the large stadium, but it seems this is not going to happen. The hocket pitch - 'Riverside Arena' - will remain (though in my opinion is a very temporary sort of place). The Swimming Centre and the Velodrome, both rather nice pieces of architecture, were always intended to be permanent, though the Swimming Centre was scarred with ugly banks of temporary seating to increase its capacity during The Games. This will no go, and good riddance. The tow massive McDonald's outlets will also be put into the recycling bin; but the Orbit, that red intestinal tower, will apparently re-open to its expectant public after some time.

The swooping roof of the Swimming Centre. Architects Zaha Hadid.

The Park was surprisingly attractive, once you got yourself through the security tents and across the acreage of concrete. It had water features, and pretty wildflower gardens. It also necessarily has huge expanses of space, and perhaps there are plans to fill those up with something or other.

Nevertheless, I thought I would record a few views of Olympic Park during its few weeks of glory, as it is "remodelled" for life after The Games.

The equally-swooping roof of the Velodrome, dubbed 'The Pringle'.
Hopkins Architects.

To supplement my bad photos - I didn't get ticket to the cycling! - here's a video of Chris Hoy and the architects talking about 'The Pringle", which is one of the permanent buildings which will survive:

Velodrome video

The Water Polo arena - one of the nice ones, and soon to go.

The Water Polo Arena is one of the buildings which will be completely demolished. It was made out of recycled materials, including inflated PVC cushions covering it. It was actually one of the greta venues, being quite small and getting the crowd up close to the action. It was also rather lovely to look at.

A media centre constructed of shipping containers - cool.

One of the temporary McDonald's, amongst the wildflowers.

'The Pringle' and a temporary Basketball Arena.

Here's  a great article recording what a bunch of architects thought of the Olympic Park buildings when they first saw them. They loved the Velodrome and Swimming Centre, and where underwhelmed by the Stadium. It has, however, been recently reported that the Stadium has been shortlisted for a prestigious architectural prize: partly because of its ability to be dismantled, reduced, recycled -- in other words, for its temporariness.

Olympic Park, with its Stadium and crowds, Summer 2012.

A map of the park during the Olympics 2012.

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