London Aquatics Centre is part of the master plan of the London Olympic infrastructure built on the banks of the Waterworks River. It is built-in proximity to several other sporting venues including the London Stadium, the Olympic village, and the Olympic media center. Composed of Unusual forms, the Olympic Park is a vibrant retreat within the urban fabric, transforming the previously neglected east London.
Project name: London aquatics centre
Location: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, United Kingdom
Area: 15950 m²
Construction period: July 2008 – June 2011
Client: ODA, Olympic Delivery Authority, London
Architects: Zaha Hadid Architects, London
Structural and services engineers: Ove Arup & Partners
Main contractor: Balfour Beatty Group Ltd
The London aquatic center is an indoor facility consisting of two 50 meter pools and a 25-meter diving pool with boards. The center was a venue for the Summer Olympics of 2012 and was used for swimming, diving, and synchronized swimming events.
After the games, the center was transformed for ‘legacy usage’ in 2014. Apart from hosting events, it is now also open to the people for use. The center remains dynamic with an array of activities and sessions for the public integrating itself into the life of the community.
Overall Design Brief
The axis of the London Aquatics Centre is planned perpendicular to the Stratford city bridge. The bridge extends out to form a podium over the training pool, connecting the building to the main public circulation axis. The main entrance sits along this bridge, providing access to the thousands of visitors in the Olympic Park. An approaching pedestrian first perceives the spectacular folded form of the roof which appears to be supported by the podium. The podium itself houses programmes below it and is the structural support for the pool hall.
The geometry of the roof is inspired by the fluid movement of water. Like a wave, the roof sweeps over the structure, enveloping the grand sized pools, and cantilevering the roof to frame the entrance. The upward curves of the roof at the ends depended on the sightlines of thousands of spectators. This also allowed plenty of natural light into the building. Its fluid form complements the river, lodging itself coherently in its context. The undulated roof contrasts the stark lines of the podium, which emerges from the bridge, seeming like a single consolidating form. The shape of the roof is optimized by keeping in mind the structure and natural lighting.
The Aquatics Centre could accommodate up to 17,500 spectators for the London 2012 Games in ‘Olympic’ mode. After the Olympics, the additional spectator seating was dismantled and it now provides a capacity of 2000 for use in ‘Legacy’ mode.
The construction was a rigorous task since the details of the roof and the pools needed scrutiny and time. The schedule had to be laid out such that the project was completed in time for the Olympics. For the construction of the roof, the three concrete core supports were built on which the entire roof rests. The joint between the roof and the column is a sliding joint that can move up to 2 feet (0.61 m) accounting for expansion and contraction. The complex form of the roof is achieved by prefabricated steel beams that were placed by cranes on the concrete supports. After all the beams at a particular section were attached, the supporting joists were added. The construction of the pool began only after the roof structure was completed.
The ceiling is made of thousands of unique pieces of timber, bellies down to differentiate between the diving pool and the competition pool. The wood had to come from a humid climate since other kinds of wood would absorb the increased humidity due to the pool and swell. The Brazilian hardwood used reduced the need for many chemical treatments. Because of the complex joins of the ceiling, it took a year to be built.
The adjoining glass facades allow plenty of light into the pool. Apart from the structure, remediation of the site, accountability for possible flooding from the river, and existing underground electrical lines had to be taken into consideration during the designing.
The building has a commendable response to sustainability, by deploying the right HVAC and water systems and also the use of appropriate recycled materials.
The building was awarded the innovation credit under BREEAM for sustainable concrete construction. The concrete used is ground granulated blast furnace slag (GGBS), a low carbon concrete since it is a by-product of the steel industry. The Aluminium covering over the roof is also part recycled.
The cooling systems of the building employ Ammonia chillers rather than HFC chillers, lowering its global warming potential. The aquatic center, in need of the most water compared to other venues, aimed to reduce the water demand by employing low flow fixtures and reusing water for WC and urinals. A massive greywater recycling system is operated to recycle the water produced by the filter backwash process. Apart from these, there is also a rainwater harvesting system providing water for the green wall at the southern end of the building.
The pool is also naturally lit, with a dotted pattern on the glass facades to minimize glare. At this curtain wall, there are interior heating trenches combined with a heating mullion system. The mullions are installed with radiant heating tubes. These systems have a high heat recovery rate.
In all, the design team has minimized energy usage, created a user-centric design, and responded to the grandiose of the Olympics whilst producing an engineering marvel.
Case study of the Olympic centre Cheyenne Culp, University of Cincinnati Integrated Technology Course, Published on Nov 19, 2017, Issuu.