Wilkinson Eyre’s London 2012 temporary Basketball Arena is a tantalisingly ephemeral, high-performing sports venue
The venues for the London 2012 games form an elaborate matrix of buildings that are temporary, permanent or a hybrid of the two. The Basketball Arena, designed by Wilkinson Eyre, sports specialist KSS Architects and engineer Sinclair Knight Merz, falls fairly and squarely into the first of these categories, and is one of the largest temporary Olympic and Paralympic Games venues ever built.
Temporary or not, it has to meet stringent criteria. It will be the home of a range of Olympic events besides basketball, including the handball finals, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby, and will also serve as a holding area for athletes during the opening and closing ceremonies. This calls for a structure that is both flexible and adaptable.
During the Olympic Games, it will be transformed from a basketball venue to host the handball competition finals in the space of 22 hours, during which time the basketball posts will be replaced by handball goals and a field-of-play mat will be laid on the concrete floor. The seating capacity will then be reduced from 12,000 to 10,000 for wheelchair basketball, before a narrow, 12-hour interval until wheelchair rugby begins.
After the Paralympic Games the venue will be dismantled and two-thirds of its materials and components will be reused or recycled. Although taller than Tate Modern and longer than a football pitch, it was erected in only 15 months – one of the fastest constructions on the site. Its 1,000- tonne steel frame was erected in just three months.
The frame’s three types of gently arching long-span members are wrapped in 20,000m2 of recyclable white PVC fabric, which will be used as a canvas to project the Olympic rings onto at night.
The PVC fabric looks as fresh and dapper as a starched dress shirt, with bulging, diagonal-ribbed crinolene-like bays on its facades and a sharp-pleated accordian roof. Naturally, the seating livery is basketball orange and black.
Start on site October 2009
Completion June 2011
Gross external floor area 11,500m2
Form of contract NEC/Option A
Total cost £43 million, including taking down the venue and VAT
Client Olympic Delivery Authority
Architect Wilkinson Eyre
Design Manager Sinclair Knight Merz
Sports architect KSS Design Group
Structural engineer Sinclair Knight Merz
Civil engineer Sinclair Knight Merz
MEP engineers Sinclair Knight Merz
Building control JLAB
Quantity surveyor CLM
Services consultant KSS Design Group
Professional project manager Sinclair Knight Merz
Commercial project manager CLM
General builder Volker Fitzpatrick
External lighting United Visual Artists
Structure and envelope Barr Construction
Temporary accommodation McAvoy
Temporary seating Slick Seating
External cladding membrane Base
Mechanical and electrical works Arena and Mitie
Seat wrapping Envirowrap
Steelwork, toilet blocks and internal fit out, including lifts Volker Fitzpatrick
Syphonic drainage Fullflow Group
Fit out Volker Fitzpatrick
Foundations and drainage Morrisons
Roofing, infill fabric and cable structure Base Structures