Tell us about the early design brief
The brief, in a nutshell, was to raise the bar for temporary overlay design and create a welcoming, accessible, cost effective and sustainable environment for elite athletes to enjoy, enabling them to concentrate on achieving peak performance for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
What inspired your design concept?
The look and feel of the overlay were inspired by the British tradition of summer events such as the Henley Regatta and the Chelsea Flower Show, where tents and bunting create vibrant, joyful temporary environments. The urban form of the temporary elements was influenced by the squares of London and Italian piazzas, where carefully considered programmes and urban composition create convivial spaces at a human scale.
What challenges did you face along the way?
Accessibility, sustainability and design were key tenets for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Village. The desire to raise the standard in all three areas above previous Games, whilst working within prescriptive IOC/IPC functional rules, security requirements and budgetary constraints could only be achieved by intelligent and economic design.
Urban place making principles and an imaginative programme of uses were used to lay out standardised rental components such as tents, flags and temporary landscaping in simple but considered configurations to create vibrant and welcoming places.
What about specific design challenges?
Utilising standard components to create unusual structures was a design challenge for us. We did this in a couple of different ways, including designing new standard components with manufacturers: the 18,000m2 dining tent, for example, was a new system piloted for this project by De Boer. We also used standard tent components but left out elements to create unusual arrays – the ‘Souk’ was an example of this, located in the International Zone.
How did it feel to be involved in such an important British project?
London 2012 was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of a unique showcase for British sport, culture and design played out on a global stage in front of an audience of billions. The positive feedback from both athletes and the LOCOG team managing the Village, plus the knowledge that in a small way our design of the Olympic and Paralympic Village contributed towards the success of the Games and of Team GB are a source of great pride.
What would you highlight as the lasting benefits of your work?
The London 2012 Village was visited by members of the Rio 2016 Organising Committee design team, and it is hoped that some of successes and lessons learnt from it can inform and inspire the designs of future Olympic and Paralympic Villages.
What are you most proud of?
Simple, recycled standard structures that provided superb accommodation without waste or unnecessary ‘show’.