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ODA promises 'Olympic design to match the great Expos of the past'

London 2012 Olympics design guru Ricky Burdett has promised London a series of temporary venues to rival the great Expos of the past.

Speaking exclusively to the AJ about the launch today of contests to design the Games' new basketball and fencing arenas, Burdett said he was calling for innovative answers to the challenges of building vast non-permanent structures.

The larger of the two new venues will be a 90m-long, 12,000-seat hall which the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) wants to be lightweight, easy to assemble and up and running at least a year before the Games kick off.

According to the ODA, there is currently no suitable 'off-the-shelf solution' available, so each of the halls will have to be designed from scratch.

Burdett suggested entrants could look for inspiration in the highly successful temporary buildings at the World Expositions in Osaka in 1970 and Hanover in 2000, and even the Festival of Britain in 1951.

Burdett said: 'The Expo model is extremely appropriate. The ODA, as [chief executive] David Higgins has said recently, wants to ratchet up the design agenda while keeping within the terms of deliverability.'

However, Burdett has warned that the new competitions are not out-and-out design contests, and that younger practices would probably need to link up with more experienced heads to stand a chance of winning.

'This is different to the contest for the Greenways [the Games' 3km of urban space] because the designers will need to have a wider skills base, so emerging talent could enter but as part of a strong consortium.'

Intriguingly, the ODA has again made the unusual step of writing to leading practices across Europe - as it did with the Velopark contest - to encourage entries from a wide range of experience and backgrounds.

Once the Games are over it is understood the multi-purpose venues will be sold off in a similar way to the Serpentine Pavilion, although Burdett admits finding a home for the huge venues could be difficult.

Meanwhile, it is expected that further competitions will be unveiled in the coming weeks for two hockey stadia and related facilities.

More information about the OJEU contests can be found at

by Richard Waite

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