Monday, 9 July 2012

feature : London 2012 Velodrome by Hopkins Architects (2011)

Surprisingly the Olympic site in Stratford only has 4 new, permanent sports arenas.  There’s the Aquatics Centre, the Copper Box (handball, goalball and fencing), the Olympic Stadium and the Velodrome.

The aquatics centre by Zaha Hadid with her trademark and highly anticipated curvy roof is certainly the most unusual and has grabbed everyone’s attention.  The Copper Box (MAKE Architects) is sadly dour by comparison. It probably isn’t and does seem to incorporate some nice detailing, but at first glance it is not going to win any awards.

The Olympic Stadium (Populous Architects) is the most surprising (for the wrong reasons) and the least remarkable of all. Traditionally nearly all Olympic Stadiums in the post-war era have a legacy of becoming white elephants. Knowing this and desperate to avoid a repeat, the Olympic Committee have instead created one ahead of the games ! At £ 431m, what were they thinking ? What happened to the original, organic design by Foreign Office Architects ? It wasn’t to everyone’s taste, but at least it was a unique statement when all eyes are on London.

Thank goodness for Hopkins's Velodrome. A relative snip at only £ 81m (less than a third of the Aquatics centre at a reported £269m), the Velodrome was inspired by bicycle design and seats 6,000 people beneath a beautifully pure, double-curving, lightweight cable roof (less than half the weight of any other covered velodrome). Externally clad in western red cedar, drawing parallels to the track inside, the Velodrome serenely sits, almost floats, atop a shallow mound in the quietest corner of the site.

For me, the Velodrome is the one building in the Olympic park that truly inspires. It is well-made, clever by design, incorporates all the usual sustainable features and still manages to be a thing of beauty without the pricetag. What a fantastic permanent home to what will probably be our most successful sport this year.

by Darren Maddison

photos thanks to : architizer

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