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'The world’s most sustainable Games meets the world’s most sustainable car company'

Footprint visits Serie Architects’ BMW pavilion

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Looking down from the twelfth floor of One Stratford Place, Serie Architects direct our view to their BMW pavilion design, its curving roofs just visible nestled between the Olympic Stadium and the Aquatics Centre.

After short talks by clients BMW and Serie regarding the automobile manufacturer’s presence in the Games and the pavilion design process, we were led down into the Park. Overlooked by Kapoor’s towering Orbit, freshly gravelled pathways were busy with staff scurrying in preparation for the opening ceremony.

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Serie’s big idea is to highlight the pavilion’s unique riverside site - it is the only waterborne pavilion in the Park - by incorporating water into the building’s cooling. The building draws in and filters river water, before it pours over the curtain walling (a nod to Grimshaw’s ‘92 British pavilion at the Seville Expo?), creating a spectacle on the outside while from the inside suggesting a torrential English summer downpour.

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The interior is sleek and minimal, directing visitors towards interactive boards featuring BMW and its sustainable credentials, including the company’s recent departure into electric cars and e-scooters.

The group was encouraged to participate in ‘Mini-Roar’: a recording of cheers for athletes, one in seven of which are sponsored by BMW, before being led in to watch two short promotional films in the in-house cinema.

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As the film’s closing catchphrase - ‘the world’s most sustainable games meet the world’s most sustainable car company’ - echoed around the cinema, I couldn’t help but wonder at this oxymoron. The presentation did highlight the fact that for several consecutive years, BMW has topped the Dow Jones’ business sustainabilty index in the automobile sector, one not generally recognised for its ‘green’ credentials.

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The pavilion is split distinctly into two tiers, with the upper level resembling a car showroom. Brightly-lit glimmering vehicles, craned onto the roof a couple of weeks ago, revolve on circular platforms. While use is made of recycled steel, the remainder of the pavilion is constructed in glass, polycarbonate and concrete.

White curving ‘lily-pads’ shelter the cars, originally conceptually linked to the notion of a Victorian bandstand. The design aspiration was to relocate the roof lily pads to different London parks after the Games, but so far it is undecided where they will go or who will sponsor them.

The rooftop space was pleasant enough, a bit of a haven amidst what will soon be the bustling Olympic venues, a platform from which you can step back and observe the Games and appreciate the river.

 

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After descending from the rooftop, we were invited over a footbridge to cross the canal to capture a ‘money shot’ of the pavilion, with the backdrop of the Orbit. While co-sponsor Coca Cola went for one big idea which reads from near and afar, BMW’s more subtle approach is in danger of getting lost in the crowd.

Client: BMW
Architects: Serie- Chris Lea/Martin Jameson
Construction: Nussli

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