Tell us about the early design brief
The brief called for a temporary venue, a world class sporting arena built for the Games, and dismantled afterwards to avoid the classic ‘white elephant’ which typically burdens host cities after major events. In meeting these stringent requirements the brief called for a highly sustainable and cost effective venue, as appropriate for a building with no long term legacy. A key component of the Client’s success drivers was that the venue should be extremely safe to build and dismantle on a fast programme.
What inspired your design concept?
In developing the design SKM were challenged to find a balance between a requirement for a high quality venue with a highly sustainable approach and a limited budget. The building is a triumph in how to connect those often conflicting brief requirements.
How did it feel to be involved in such a large and important British project?
Fantastic! The project has been a huge success. Without doubt, the success of the design process and the lessons learned on this project have greatly enhanced SKM’s ability to deliver sustainable building solutions in the future.
What challenges did you face along the way?
The client’s requirements formed an extremely challenging brief. To meet this, the team worked collaboratively to devise a building largely formed out of off-the-shelf components which can be reused after the Olympics. The building components have been reduced to their minimum level, or eliminated entirely, and materials and construction techniques selected which enabled simple deconstruction and recycling of bespoke products.
Our design thinking led to the various components fitting together in a manner that reduces the interfaces between trades and packages of work. This has a threefold benefit: it minimises changes required to off the shelf products and hence maximises re-use; it reduces the cost of the works; the reduced number of interfaces eliminates many health and safety risks and productivity is increased. This innovative approach to the design of the largest temporary sports venue ever constructed has delivered a solution to the Client of high value, both in terms of cost and quality of the product.
What about specific design challenges?
The winning London Olympic bid was based on a sustainable Games and legacy including avoiding permanent structures with no legacy use. Whilst a re-useable ‘circus’ style venue seems the obvious solution to a regular event, it would be more expensive than a permanent building because of the complexity of creating a construction designed to be erected, dismantled and transported multiple times.
Hence, after considering a number of approaches to the contradiction of a ‘sustainable temporary arena’, the SKM team adopted a solution where the separate building components are reused, but not necessarily the building as a whole. However, some elements cannot be easily re-used once incorporated into the construction, and therefore a ‘less is more’ approach is suitable. So the philosophy of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ was adopted at the very heart of the design team’s process, with every nut and bolt scrutinised for its worthiness.