School of Engineering, GD Goenka University in association with ACM IIT Delhi and Network Bulls Presents – NNSC-2014 (21st – 22nd February 2014)
January 16, 2014
KPMG as knowledge partner with GD Goenka University
January 22, 2014

New Paradigms in Architecture have always been established by each of the Olympic games. Although the basics of stadium design have changed very little since the Colosseum of ancient Rome, demand on the host nations for constructing iconic stadium architecture for Olympics has become the norm in recent times. An open-air building with a round or oval central arena, with seats arranged concentrically around it, usually use to provide for an optimum viewing experience. However radically new requirements have been introduced in recent times with the advent of HDTV and aerial broadcasting and also by the desire to create distinctive landmarks that are architecturally bold as well as aesthetic and functional. If one looks back on Beijing’s 2008 Olympics constructions, they were all beautiful, functional and forward-thinking. London 2012 Olympics have firmly laid the emphasis on fabric architecture for their portable, sustainable and reusable features.

Sustainable Fabric Architecture at London Olympics

Olympic Delivery Authority’s (ODA) mandate for 2012 was to create sustainable venues, facilities and infrastructure that would leave a lasting social, economic and environmental legacy by minimizing the adverse impacts of such large-scale construction on the city. Many of the venues were thus perceived as temporary structures that can be erected in a short time and that can be dismantled, reused or redistributed after the games. Technical textiles thus emerged as the material of choice for the construction. The use of textiles (mostly phthalate-free PVC) allowed low weight, self-spanning structures having reflective coating to be constructed, that reduced solar gain during the day and provided a canvas for night-time external lighting and inflated cushioning providing insulation.

Main Olympic Stadium

Main Olympic venue – the London 2012 Olympic Stadium emerged as one of the most visible example of lightweight stadium, most rapidly constructed, later part dismantled and shrunk down to a smaller community venue. Made by using lightweight tension structure technology, the roof design consisted of a truss around the perimeter of the stadium pulled into compression by a ring of cables at inner edge of the roof, and radial cables that ran between the compression truss and the inner ring. The fabric covering was PVC-coated polyester cut in pre-shaped 1 mm thick panels clipped to the cable net and tensioned into the final anticlastic 3-D form. To permit high definition, as well as slow-motion, HDTV coverage, to prevent glare and any lens “flare” for TV cameras, a series of 14 triangular lighting rigs were placed at the edge of the fabric roof. Framing the whole structure was a graphically dynamic LDPE coated polyester wrap composed of inverted wedges that helped define entrances at the ground level. Being a fabric, the wrap provided a porous, translucent printed surface that allowed the building to breathe naturally.

Other Venues

Three other venues i.e. the Basketball Arena, the Aquatic Center and the Shooting Galleries were designed as temporary sports venues. The basketball arena was from the beginning intended as a fully temporary site which was to be taken on rent by ODA for hosting the Olympics and Paralympics, completely dismantled thereafter and then moved to its new location – possibly the site of the 2016 Games, Rio de Janeiro. The venue, compared to a “loaf of bread”, was 35m high, was longer than a football pitch at 115m and was wrapped with 20,000m2 of recyclable PVC Type 2 membrane. Tension was created by stretching the fabric over three different variations of arched panels in a distinctive pattern of edges and planes that will be used as a dramatic backdrop for innovative lighted design projections. The steel supports were bolted and not welded together so they can be taken down easily. To keep the design of main building simple, security staff offices, athletes’ warm up areas, and food preparation facilities were constructed as separate pop-up areas within the arena. This way almost two-thirds of the arena’s material could be reused or recycled.

Shooting Gallery Concept Sketch (Source: http://robkronenburg.wordpress.com/)

 The aquatic center featured a distinctive silver wrap of PVC fabric and an inflatable roof of fabric made from PVC/PE. The iconic form of the building, evocative of a giant splash had a dual membrane roof which was air inflated to form huge 54m-long by 10m-wide cushions. This reduced the risk of condensation formation on the underside of the roof while also providing a self-supporting system with no requirement for secondary structure. For the competition area the fabric was opaque in order to ensure consistent lighting conditions for HDTV. Outside structure were made of white translucent fabric, which allowed daylight in and could be lighted to glow at night and emphasize the geometry within. Post game, the arena was dismantled, parts reused elsewhere and materials put up for rental use in the aftermarket. The PVC wrap could be be safely recycled through a closed loop recycling scheme where the manufacturer reconstituted the material into other PVC products.

Shooting Gallery (Source: http://realestate.aol.com)

 The three galleries on the shooting range were also made in a bright white double curved membrane exterior. From the outside, the PVC cladding was marked in bright spots that look like suction rings of a giant octopus, which actually functioned like ventilators while also creating tension nodes for the steel structure beneath. The spots that met the ground became the entrances to the galleries and the semitransparent facades on two of the three ranges reduced the need for artificial lighting. Post event, the main structures were dismantled and moved to Glasgow for the 2014 Commonwealth games, and all remaining materials was reused or recycled.

The Last Word

With these venues the ODA for 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, has successfully illustrated that less expensive, more environmentally friendly pop-up fabric architecture is the sustainable way forward. Fabric architecture is a trans-disciplinary area that collates together expertise from Fabric technology, Interior Design and Architecture. New-age universities are adopting the trans-disciplinary teaching approach and the preparing architects and designers that are better equipped to take forward these advances. Fabric structures are all set to become a lasting trend in days to come.

-Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Dean of Design Programmes
GD Goenka University

(Dr. Sanjay Gupta is the Dean of Design Programmes at GD Goenka University, Sohna Road, New Delhi India. He can be contacted at sanjay.gupta@gdgoenka.ac.in )

S Gupta, Journal for Asia on Textile & Apparel, 23(5), 2012.

Photo credits:
London Olympic Stadium (Source: http://wallpapernpictures.blogspot.in/2012/07/olympics-stadium-london-2012.html)
Olympic Stadium Exploded View (Source: http://deskarati.com/2012/01/04/12765/)
Shooting Gallery Concept Sketch (Source: http://robkronenburg.wordpress.com/)
Shooting Gallery (Source: http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2012/08/01/london-2012-century-21-commercials-air-during-olympics/)

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