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AJ100 Building of the Year 2011: Olympic Velodrome

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Velodrome for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, by Hopkins Architects is this year’s AJ100 Building of the Year

In the AJ building study on the velodrome (AJ 24.02.11) Mike Taylor, senior partner at Hopkins Architects, describes its double-curvature structure as ‘shrink-wrapped’.

‘We wanted it to feel like a bicycle in terms of its engineering – very taut with nothing superfluous. The volume is as tight as we dare go. Everything is sort of on the edge,’ he adds. It was this ‘near-perfect synthesis of form and function,’ as Patrik Schumacher of Zaha Hadid Architects described it, that led the judges to award it this year’s AJ100 Building of the Year – making this the second year in a row that Hopkins has scooped the prize.

The jury – Schumacher, DEGW founder Frank Duffy and AJ editor Christine Murray – was particularly impressed by the beauty of the timber cladding, the lightweight double cable-net roof, the dominance of natural light and the velodrome’s beauty in section.

Schumacher described the stadium as ‘an intelligent structure, very neatly designed, from the light cable-net roof to the angling of the velodrome, which makes sense both aesthetically and from an audience perspective, in allowing the seating to opportunise on the structure’. He added: ‘This is integrated design.’

Duffy said: ‘Visible from the A12, the velodrome’s lovely shape acts as a marker for the north end of the Olympic Park. Beautifully sited, beautifully made and beautifully detailed, it is an urban phenomenon.’

Murray was impressed with its ground-up approach to sustainability. ‘From the concrete shuttering to the weight of the roof, Hopkins have thought of everything,’ she said. Adjustments to the concrete shuttering reduced plywood waste on the job from the industry standard of 20 to 3 per cent while the cable-net roof cut the time on site by three months, saving £2 million and greatly reducing the amount of steel used. At 30kg/m2, the roof weighs less than half of the Beijing velodrome’s roof structure.

Hopkins Architects

It has been a good year for this multi-award winning practice. Not only has it won the AJ100 Building of the Year for the second time running with its Olympic Velodrome, but founder Michael Hopkins also won this year’s Contribution to the Profession award (see AJ100 interview with Hopkins). The practice also picked up two Civic Trust Awards for work on Norwich Cathedral Hostry and Nottingham Trent University.

The work of this 35-year old practice, based in London and Dubai, is underpinned by a strong sustainability ethos and a focus on craft and traditional materials.

AJ100 Building of the Year shortlist

Angel Building, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
Oriel Mostyn Gallery, Ellis Williams Architects
Woodland Trust HQ, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Masdar Institute, Foster + Partners
Olympic Velodrome, Hopkins Architects
One New Change, Sidell Gibson Architects
Bourne Hill Offices, Stanton Williams
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Woods Bagot

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