Beyond 2012 - an integrated Design Story

Olympic Stadium, engineering
A built environment story

“There has never been a stadium like it so design thinking was everything in the project.”

Paul Westbury,

Tell us about the early design brief

The brief called for the Olympic Stadium to hold a capacity of 80,000 for the London 2012 Olympics and to be reduced to a capacity of 25,000 after the Games.

What inspired your design concept?

We wanted a different kind of Olympic Stadium, with all the functionality and elegance but with minimum requirements and carbon impact.

Did you know…

  • The stadium roof is not designed primarily to shelter spectators but to shelter the athletics track from wind to enable calm conditions for breaking world records.

What challenges did you face along the way?

There has never been a stadium like it so design thinking was everything in the project. Designing the stadium for capacity reduction after the Games was one of the main challenges. Minimising embodied carbon in the construction process also required a lot of design thought, and embodied carbon was much more significant to us than operational carbon in the design process.

What about specific design challenges?

Designing for minimum requirements produced a roof at a significantly lower level than other Olympic stadia. The sports lighting needed to be around 25m above the edge of the roof and a lightweight cable net roof structure needed to be designed to support the 14 lighting towers weighing a total of 500 tonnes. In their permanent position this was fine, but getting them there was more challenging – it required a true collaboration between engineer, architect, main contractor, steelwork contractor and lighting contractor.

How did it feel to be involved in such an important British project?

We did it – and with humour! It was sheer hard work but afterwards we were rewarded as British engineer designer of the London 2012 Olympic Stadium. The opening ceremony featuring Kenneth Branagh playing engineering hero Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the technological marvel of the cauldron were real highlights.


Company name
Buro Happold

Engineering for the Olympic Stadium. We also worked on the Water Polo Arena,  Energy Centre, Masterplanning, design and legacy proposals for the Olympic Park.


Project team

Paul Westbury

Andrew Comer
Director of E&I

Glyn Trippick
Principal Consultant

Sir Robert McAlpine
Design and Build Contractor

In collaboration with:


Landscape Architec

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