Legacies of Olympic Games’ Venues

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London now has new purpose that continues the lasting community spirit of the Olympic games

The 2020 Olympics are well underway in Tokyo, Japan. Whilst eager to witness incredible athletic achievements, there is an equal sense of anticipation to view the structures and developments of urbanism and town planning that have been carefully and thoughtfully designed to encapsulate these moments and are, for the decades to come, embedded with the ethos underpinning modern Olympics.

A combination of new and reused structures

Although new purpose built structures include the Japan National Stadium by Kuma, ‘several venues that were completed for the previous Olympics in Tokyo in 1964’ have been reused (Dezeen, 22.07.2021). The repurposing of structures has therefore raised the question; to what extent are former Olympic villages reused? 

This is a query that is reverberated in London, which has been host to the Olympics on three separate occasions. Hosted most recently in 2012, the atmosphere and the memories that have been engendered at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford continues to resonate with spectators today, although, arguably, in a different social and architectural context.

The London Olympic Park repurposing efforts has received mixed reviews

The area, wherein evidence from the Bronze Age, and Victorian period have been identified, the Stratford Marshland remained largely unoccupied throughout the late 19th to 20th century (The Guardian, 27.07.2017). Cartographic evidence shows that whilst its environs were developed with mills and factories, the area itself was only developed as recently as 1995.

As such, the development of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park would have resulted in a change of use in the first instance and its ongoing use would further diverge from its working-class historic context. In doing so, and as acknowledged in the article Legacy, what legacy? Five years on the London Olympic Park Battle Still Rages (The Guardian, 27.07.2017), its development received mixed reviews not merely upon its construction but also in the ongoing efforts to reuse and repurpose this large, purpose-built space.

What is the London Olympic park like now?

Nearly a decade following the London Olympics, the area is now populated with large business, event spaces, a shopping centre, and mixed-housing. A breadth of visitors from all over are welcomed by the conglomerate of different activities, venues and parks.

Examples of reuse include the London Stadium which is now the home of West Ham United Football Club and the ‘Pringle’ which continues to be used for recreational and leisure activities, and mixed-housing. The Olympic venues have also encouraged other developments in this area such as the development of educational campuses, including UCL’s Here East.

New meaning for the spirit of the Olympic games

Although these approaches to reuse are notable for their economic prosperity, it is acknowledged in the article (The Guardian, 27.07.2017) that, for example, the Clays Lane Housing Estate was purchased and demolished to accommodate the Olympic master plan. The article has also raised that the area is strictly managed as a means to prevent anti-social behaviours. Despite this, the article acknowledges that the area is a nice and demographically diverse place to live and visit.

The community and social environment can therefore be understood to have persisted in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and therefore the spirit of the Olympic games, which are becoming a distant memory, have taken on new meaning in its evolving urban context which will ensure that its legacy continues to thrive for the decades to come.

Sources and further reading:

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/jul/27/london-olympic-park-success-five-years-depends

https://www.dezeen.com/2021/07/22/tokyo-2020-olympic-games-venues-architecture/

New 3D printed bridge opens in Amsterdam

The new Amsterdam MX3D 3D printed bridge

This past week, the long awaited MX3D Bridge, the first 3D printed bridge, was unveiled in Amsterdam across the Oudezijds Achterburgwal. The pedestrian bridge, which commenced six years ago, has been ‘fabricated from stainless steel rods by six-axis robotic arms equipped with welding gear’ in a factory and craned onto site (Dezeen, 19 July 2021). This innovative structure embodies the evolution of fabrication and craftsmanship whilst also creating a curious precedent for pushing the boundaries of architecture and what this might mean for the future of the historic urban environment.

A familiar construction

The bridge is constructed of stainless steel and as such, juxtaposes against the existing pallet of brick, stucco and stone – that is prominent along the waterfront – in a way that recalls the 18th and 19th century Industrial Revolution. This era had an unapologetic use of exposed wrought and cast iron and its significance in the English built environment resulted in rapidly developed and transformed cities, societal changes and new architectural forms (Britannica, 21 July, 2021).

Historic examples from this movement throughout England include the Bridge over the River Sever in Shropshire (1779), the Royal Pavilion in Brighton (1818-21), and Crystal Palace in London (built in 1851, demolished 1936) amongst many others. Despite the resistance against industrialisation due to its divergence from traditional craftsmanship, the benefits of this time are still felt and appreciated in architecture today – as evidenced in the creation of the MX3D Bridge.

Modern architecture now has new roles to fulfil to realise these types of structures

In this regard, the ambitions that have driven the success of the MX3D Bridge in Amsterdam echo’s the narrative of the 18th century Industrial Revolution via its machine operated and robotic technology. In doing so, the role of the modern architect has been redefined where this now largely includes coding and software design as well as craftsmanship.

That being said, this leads to question the contemporary role of the craftsman and its place within architecture, and how this ongoing narrative may further omit this trade and the repercussions this may have on the future of the historic environment. On the other hand, what has been created in Amsterdam is a unique and engaging precedent for how innovations in technology can help create a distinctively modern way of interacting with existing built forms.

How did they produce the 3D printed surface texture?

The 3D printed surface created a texture that, arguably, has not been experienced in the built environment yet. The texture is created by the welding and layering of metal that has created small and tight ridges and as such the surface is left as it is. There is an authenticity and honesty in this texture that is created by this new technique, one that communicates the contemporary and distinctively modern approach to its construction.

A new era for architecture and construction, with inspiration from the Industrial Revolution

In sum, there is a revival of the 18th and 19th century movement via the reimagination of the limitations of steel construction in our high-tech world and as such, is an exciting innovative step forward in the realm of architecture. The materiality and the mode of construction are distinctively of their time and as a result would engender curious and engaging interactions with the existing historic environment.

Sources and further reading:

https://www.dezeen.com/2021/07/19/mx3d-3d-printed-bridge-stainless-steel-amsterdam/

https://www.britannica.com/event/Industrial-Revolution

https://www.dezeen.com/2015/12/30/video-interview-robots-worlds-first-3d-printed-bridge-mx3d-joris-laarman-movie/

Plyscrapers! Timber high-rise buildings are becoming a growing trend

Plyscrapers: a resurgence in timber framed buildings, even for skyscrapers. Photo credit: By Øyvind Holmstad - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79435356

Materiality is a significant factor in the built environment. Not only does the palette used have significant visual and/or aesthetic implications for the external envelope of a structure and its incorporation into its surroundings, but can also result in positive and/or negative interactions with these buildings on a personal level, whilst assisting long-term sustainability more generally.

Within the context of high-rise buildings, the choice of building material has traditionally included steel, iron and concrete, which has resulted in visually intriguing if not astounding structures. However, in recent years there has been a growing tendency toward experimentation with timber high-rise buildings – also known as ‘Plyscrapers’ – as a more sustainable and more socially beneficial material.  

Considerations for timber structures

Although timber is amongst one of the oldest building materials, following devastation caused by the Great Fire of London in 1666, building regulations and more general stigma has restricted its use. However, the contemporary and innovative resurgence of timber can serve to reimagine its character and place within the urban environment, whilst doing so in a sustainable and aesthetically exciting way.

The recent BBC video ‘Will We All Live in ‘Plyscrapersin the Future?’ has considered interesting benefits concerning sustainability as a result of using timber for high-rise buildings. These include carbon capture, improved structural integrity using CLT (cross laminated timber), and reducing carbon emission by 4 %.

Timber elicits positive responses

In addition to ecological benefits, timber is commonly admired for effecting warmth, comfort, and positive physiological and psychological benefits. In addition to other health benefits, it helps users reconnect with nature. Further effects are widely acknowledged throughout the wider environment.

The Concise Townscape (Gordon Cullen, 1971) notes that ‘Trees and buildings have always borne a special relationship to each other … so great as to demand a reassessment of the relationship between the two … Today the art of bringing trees and buildings together is based on the tree lending its richness to buildings, and on buildings pointing out the architectural qualities of trees so that the two together make one ensemble.

But more fundamentally – with respect to the use made of timber in individual buildings – Dezeen (November, 2015) notes that wood ‘… makes the most amazingly beautiful spaces. These are buildings that feel very good to be in…

The reimagining of timber ensues

‘Plyscrapers’ have therefore begun to emerge from the English skyline. Such buildings include the 33-meter-high apartment block in Shoreditch by Hawkins Brown, and the nine-storey Murray Grove in Hackney by Waugh Thisleton. In 2016, a proposal was forwarded by PLP Architecture and researchers from Cambridge University’s Department of Architecture, which entailed a 300-meter-tall timber high-rise for the Barbican Estate.  

The reimagining of a traditional material in this way results in a refreshing, dynamic, yet warm juxtaposition against today’s intensively glass, concrete and steel environment. This would undoubtedly elevate the urban experience from a perspective of streetscape, whilst creating visually engaging spaces that are also a pleasure to use whilst proving environmentally beneficial.

Sources and further reading:

Gordon Cullen. The Concise Townscape. Oxford: Great Britain. 1971, p.168.

http://www.plparchitecture.com/oakwood-timber-tower.html

https://www.ribaj.com/intelligence/plyscrapers-timber-skyscrapers-paul-fast-ian-king-what-now-what-next

https://www.dezeen.com/2015/11/09/cross-laminated-timber-construction-architecture-timber-age/

https://www.architectureanddesign.com.au/news/timber-makes-you-feel-good-and-helps-you-heal-says#