London 2012 Legacy
This Summer marks the ten year anniversary of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, where a lasting legacy was created for the townscape of London. The unique development of architecture, infrastructure and landscape that supported the games ten years ago has since evolved to host a new spectrum of activity in sport, education, community, and ecology. Ten years on, we take a moment to reflect on our architectural contribution to the Olympic Park, and how this continues to perform today.
The Water Polo Arena, designed by David Morley Architects for London 2012, was a temporary venue constructed in a prominent site at the main gateway to the Olympic Park. The 5,000 seat capacity venue was made from a Kit of Parts and stood as an example for an emerging form of sustainable architecture at the time. Winning ‘Sustainable Building of the Year’ in 2013, the scheme responded to the Olympic Delivery Authority’s strategy of reducing the need for materials, re-using as much material as possible after the games, and then recycling after the re-use life has been expended.
The concept was driven by the desire to make the building using a method where all of the components could be efficiently re-used, re-cycled and indeed many components were pre-cycled taken from the existing supply chain of temporary structures. The spectator seating had been previously used in other buildings and was re-usable after the games, as were the structural components – even the retractable screw-pile foundations. Dual functionality was also important in the selection of materials.
After the London 2012 Water Polo Arena was demounted, we followed the path travelled by many of the original components to ensure that it continues to set the bar for sustainability. A lot of the equipment was repurposed for a permanent velodrome project in Jakarta, Indonesia for the 2018 Asian Games. This facility was built in Palembang as a permanent structure, and we were pleased to hear confirmation from ES Global recently that it still operates very successfully four years later. Elements of the arena were also used in the Sochi Gymnasium stadium, and some of the trusses have been used within stadia around England, such as forming a new TV gantry at Selhurst Park Stadium in London.
Creating more with less is an important ethos upheld at David Morley Architects. We think that the Water Polo Arena is a good circular economy story which pushed the agenda at the time. However, we understand that sustainability in sport is still a big issue, and there is a long way to go. We were encouraged to hear that the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has recently set up a Circular Economy Task Groupto accelerate actions in sustainable construction practices. Kai Liebetanz, Sustainability Advisor at UKGBC says, “as the twin crises of climate and biodiversity accelerate at an alarming rate, we must progress circular economy from concept to practice, in order to stop excessive resource use, limit carbon emissions, and stay within planetary boundaries.”
Looking forward, where do permanent and temporary structures sit with the sustainability objectives of future sport events, for example Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028? According to the Paris 2024 Environmental Ambition, the environmental impacts are being minimised by using 95% existing or temporary venues. “Reducing the number of new build projects means we are able to significantly restrict the carbon footprint and give centre stage to the wealth of French architecture by transforming Paris’ most stunning landmarks into sporting arenas.”
While the Water Polo Arena is now divided back into its kit of parts in new locations, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (QEOP) lives on in Stratford as a world-leading destination for sport, culture, education, and a global centre for enterprise. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) believes that Olympic venues are a powerful way to improve the lives of host city residents, while demonstrating new ideas and technologies, and restoring biodiversity. After visiting the QEOP recently, we can recognise the ecological benefits of the park ten years on. The original site in the Lower Lea Valley had been used extensively for industry and engineering purposes for over 125 years. The Olympic and Legacy Masterplans transformed this post-industrial backwater into a valuable ecological asset, the largest park created in London in 150 years.
Apart from Water Polo, David Morley Architects have also contributed to the London 2012 legacy with our design for re-purposing part of the London 2012 Broadcast Centre into a vibrant London campus for Loughborough University. Loughborough University London operates inside over 9,000 sq m of collaborative learning space, providing state of the art equipment and materials to ensure research, teaching and creativity can thrive. After Loughborough moved into the complex, known as Here East, other universities have followed to see the Olympic Park becoming a real focal point for creative higher education.
Circular Economy Task Group
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park