Beyond 2012 - an integrated Design Story

Olympic Stadium
A built environment story

“The key sustainability criteria of ‘reduce, re-use and recycle’ were adopted to create a compact, flexible and lightweight design.”


Tell us about the early design brief

The aim of the team was to design the most sustainable Olympic stadium to date and reduce the amount of steel and concrete needed, making it one of the lightest stadia of the modern era.

What challenges did you face along the way?

The challenge in building a stadium for a specific event lies in creating a structure that is both temporary and permanent. This is the essence of the London 2012 Olympic Stadium. The 80,000 seat venue was designed to be transformed post-Games to a 25,000 seat venue.

What about specific design challenges?

To achieve a balance between the immediate needs of a large Games stadium against a long-term, small-scale venue, we embraced the opportunity to develop the architectural language of venue design. We progressed a new theory of ‘embracing the temporary’, exploring form, materials, structure and operational systems to bring a structured palette of elements into a cohesive design. This promotes possibilities of transformation after the Games down to a minimum 25,000 seat venue form.

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

The Games were a catalyst for urban regeneration in East London, fast-tracking 25-30 years of planned work into just a decade and creating the largest new park in the city for over 100 years. Our philosophy of ‘embrace the temporary’ has allowed the freedom to showcase London, using it as a backdrop in our other Olympic projects to create defining moments – volleyball on Horse Guards Parade and the silhouette of a horse jumping in Greenwich Park, for example – that will stand as a symbol of London 2012 for decades to come.

What would you highlight as the benefits of your design?

The London 2012 Olympic Stadium sets a new benchmark in sustainable design for sports stadia and changes the face of stadium architecture. It’s a new approach to how we think of sustainability, which reflects the city’s compelling commitment to legacy.

What are you most proud of regarding your work?

The key sustainability criteria of ‘reduce, re-use and recycle’ were adopted to create a compact, flexible and lightweight design. The main stadium structure is light and elegant and uses only ten per cent of the steel weight used for the Beijing stadium.  The fabric roof is based on the engineering principles of a bicycle wheel and was redesigned to enable the use of ‘found’ steel, while the facade of the building is composed of a lightweight fabric ‘wrap’, which twists at the base to allow entry to the seating bowl.


Company name

Olympic Stadium


Project team

John Barrow
Senior Principal

Megan Ashfield

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