Week in review

July 28, 2012

London’s Olympic Stadium named on RIBA’s Stirling shortlist, the athlete’s village as ‘Olympic urbanism’, plus an international design competition for the architectural elite to redesign Japan’s national stadium.

Above: Populous’ Olympic Stadium. Photo courtesy LOCOG

All eyes are on London, as the city hosts the 2012 Summer Olympics. Situated in a former industrial area known as the Lower Lea Valley, the 80-hectare site has been transformed into what Ricky Burdett, former adviser to the Olympic Delivery Authority, describes as “a piece of a city”. Olympic organisers have used investment in the games as an ambitious urban regeneration project to revitalise underprivileged and isolated communities. “After the games, the permanent venues will remain as landmarks amid greenery while bands of new commercial and residential development will extend like fingers into the park from surrounding neighborhoods… The Olympic Delivery Authority estimates that 75 per cent of its capital investment will serve subsequent uses,” says this Bloomberg piece, adding: “Many will be watching. Urban revitalisation at this scale and with this cash is all but unknown.”

Inside Populous' Olympic Stadium. Image courtesy LOCOG


The Olympic Stadium, designed by Populous, was last week named as one of six British architecture projects on this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist. The shortlist features The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield by David Chipperfield, two projects by OMA: the Maggie’s Centre in Glasgow and the Rothschild Bank in London, Stanton Williams’ The Sainsbury Laboratory in Cambridge and O’Donnell + Tuomey’s Lyric Theatre in Belfast.
“Simple. Restrained. Simple and restrained. Possibly also sober, plain and very much not iconic,” said Rowan Moore in The Observer, “…None of which means that all the projects are necessarily cheap.” In BD, Oliver Wainwright adds: “Sure, the buildings might seem stripped back, restrained, lacking the bombastic shapemaking of former years, but this is not cheap and cheerful recession chic… This is stealth wealth.”

London Olympic Stadium, by Populous. Photo courtesy LOCOG


Much has been made of the ‘legacy’ of this ­Olympic Parks, with the London Legacy Development Corporation charged with transforming the Olympic Park into a viable community. In addition to legacy plans for the headline venues including Hadid’s Aquatic Centre, the main stadium by Populous and Hopkins’ Velodrome, the Games has also brought 2,800 new apartments to the area, in the shape of the Athlete’s Village – 50 per cent of which is earmarked for affordable housing after the games. This slideshow by Anisha Gade in Places Journal looks at the rise of ‘Olympic urbanism’ since the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, ranging from ex-military barracks in London (1948) and Tokyo (1964) to prefab towers in Moscow (1980) and suburban condos in Sydney (2000).

Olympic Village, Seoul 1988, designed by Kyu Sung Woo. Photo courtesy Kyu Sung Woo Architects, via Design Observer


Down river from Olympic Park, the city’s London Eye is set to be transformed into a “positivity lightshow” ­– changing colour to reflect the mood of Londoners towards the Games, gauged by comments expressed on Twitter. The lights on the wheel will flicker from negative purple through neutral green to a positive yellow, and will be “powered by an ‘intuitive algorithm’ that filters positive and negative tweets and allots them a colour shade accordingly,” as The Atlantic Cities reports. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the project is a promotional ploy from energy company EDF, requiring participants to tag tweets with #Energy2012 – a risky social media gimmick that could backfire, as writer Feargus O’Sullivan warns, leaving Central London’s sky illuminated with a constant purple glow.

Kasumingaoka Stadium, Japan, designed for the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo


And finally, away from London but still on the sporting theme, The Japan Sports Council (JSC) has launched an international design competition – chaired by Tadao Ando and with Foster and Rogers on the judging panel – open only to the architectural elite. The design competition will result in a new national stadium to replace the Kasumigaoka National Stadium, designed in 1958 for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. The new stadium will host the Rugby World Cup 2019, and will be a potential venue for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, if Japan wins the bid. JSC President, Ichiro Kono, said of the competition: “As an all-new stadium, we want to create it in an all-new way… What we need now is the power of dreams,” – and, apparently, only Gold Medalists need apply. The competition’s qualification requirements mean only recipients of the RIBA Pritzker Architecture Prize, the AIA, RIBA or UIA Gold Medals, or the Praemium Imperiale  (Architecture Division) are eligible.

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