Tell us about the early design brief
The LOCOG wayfinding team had set out the parameters for 17 beacons around the Olympic Park, and in September 2011 we were asked to design them. There was no request to design the gantries at that point – this came in November – so the second part of our London 2012 project was a mad rush!
We were asked to work closely with Momentum Engineering and it was a collaboration that worked really well. We ended up sharing our offices and today, post-London 2012, we are working together on other projects.
What inspired your design concept?
Olympic branding geometry, classical Olympic history, London iconography and British irony and ambiguity were inspirations for our designs.
The story of the signage…
- From the start we wanted to make good use of the beacon and gantry fabric, so after the Games were over we had a number of recycled collectable courier bags produced from the signage fabric. We now carry our London 2012 legacy around with us every day!
What challenges did you face along the way?
Very short time scales with many approvals through LOCOG and the Olympic Delivery Authority were a challenge. We pushed very hard for a design-led approach, which LOCOG was very supportive of. We gained the extra gantries commission by coming up with our own design. At this point there was so little time to make changes, that the original design was pretty much what was built.
The brief asked for the structures to be illuminated and it was assumed that this would involve lights shining onto solid structures. However we suggested that the structures themselves glow through back-illuminated fabric and this became a key feature and allowed much larger panel sizes and contributed to much lighter structures overall.
What about specific design challenges?
Below ground, foundations were not allowed for any of the structures and in the case of the gantries, this led to very widely spread footings to minimise uplift. We combined this with cantilevered ‘wings’ to allow for optimum crowd flow. Above ground, the upper forms of the gantries accommodate telecommunications equipment, and avoiding interference between the LED light arrays and telecommunications took up a lot of time in the final few weeks.
How did it feel to be involved in such a large and important British project?
It was a great experience. The speed of the process made us feel very caught up in the energy of London 2012, with a climax at the Opening Ceremony. We are really pleased with the designs and in a sense their temporary nature adds to their link with the London 2012 Games themselves.