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Richard Arnold: building a new sporting future and a life after the Olympic Games

Richard Arnold, the client behind the London 2012 Velodrome and now head of Wrenbridge Sport, on life after the Olympic Games

What exactly does Wrenbridge Sport do? 
Wrenbridge Sport is a new sister company to established developers, Wrenbridge.  Our focus is on stadia and sport and leisure related buildings and facilities, either through delivering a new amenity or expanding an existing.
Our work spans both the private and public sectors from individual professional sports clubs to local authorities and educational establishments.

What kind of schemes do you have on your books?
We are development partners with Grosvenor on a new sporting village in Cambridge. Designed by Studio Egret West, the scheme combines elite sport with vital community facilities and involves the development of an 8,000 capacity stadium for Cambridge United  with an indoor sports hall and outdoor pitches for youth development football as well as hockey and rugby. The Sporting Village will also include space for Anglian Ruskin University, sport rehabilitation facilities together with associated retail and commercial uses.  The whole scheme is supported by a wider residential plan. 
Other projects include a new cricket club in the Midlands  developed with David Morley Architects and a community leisure village in Yorkshire with FaulknerBrowns.  We also like to work with smaller practices as well and we’ve recently worked with AND Architects and Morrow+Lorraine Architects, which has been great fun as well as producing some exciting results.

 Following on from the London Velodrome we’ve also been working with Hopkins Architects and the track designer and builder to develop  a concept catering for various sized velodromes ranging from 50 to 5,000 spectators , adaptable to location, climate, additional activities and long-term flexible use including other sports besides tack cycling.  We’ve already received a lot of interest internationally.

Describe the future for the company and its long term aims. 
We’ve made a really great start with some fantastic schemes and we want to grow the business from here with more similar development.  We have funding readily available and so we’re very active in the marketplace and always on the lookout for interesting and challenging projects.  On the back of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics there is a tremendous buzz around sport in the country and part of the overall legacy will be providing new amenities to increase sport participation which crosses so many areas into education and health and wellbeing.

A project lifespan can be a real rollercoaster of highs and lows

Are you looking for architects at the moment? 
We’ve a number of potential schemes that we’re looking at  and  when we bring these forward we’ll be looking to get design teams appointed.

What do you want from an architect ? 
Ultimately its talent that you are looking for and ability to inspire and capture your imagination but to listen to you as a client and take the time to really understand what is important to make the scheme / project work.  Of course, with the length of time that is involved with projects it is vitally important to work with people that you like and can get on with and most importantly enjoy it.  It might be a cliché but a project lifespan can be a real rollercoaster of highs and lows and so having the overall team dynamic that ensures that everyone wants to achieve the same thing is really important. 

You have just finished working on the Olympic Park, most notably the velodrome – what was the biggest thing you learned from that process?
In appointing designers not focusing on whether the practice has done a particular building type before but whether they have the requisite skills to do the particular project.

Would you have done anything differently? 
There’s inevitably always a few little things that you might look to change but overall there really isn’t a great deal that I would change.  Some of the procedures and processes could be frustrating but for a public project of this size and scale the level of scrutiny was enormous and so this was inevitable and therefore had to be recognised and worked within.

How successful do you think the venues have been?
We’ve just witnessed the greatest ever summer of sport in the country and the venues have played a fantastic part in this but equally important has been the parklands that has formed such a great setting and enabled spectators to enjoy the atmosphere.  Obviously I’m biased somewhat, but the Velodrome is my favourite venue and the real star of the Park but all of the venues have worked really well and the mix of permanent and temporary will prove to be a template for future Games.  Overall it’s been a triumph for British architecture, engineering and construction. 

Other than Olympic schemes, what is your favourite building?
San Nicola Stadium in Bari, Italy and the Natural History Museum.

What is the best advice you have ever received?
Surround yourself with good people and that in turn will ensure they will bring different ideas and thinking to yourself and that will create a great team.

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