David Morley Architects’ London 2012 Water Polo Arena opened its doors to the public for the first time last week
The 5,000 capacity temporary venue welcomed Olympic athletes and thousands of spectators for four days of water polo test events.
The venue which sits next to Zaha Hadid’s Aquatics Centre and Populous’ Olympic Stadium represents an emerging approach of architecture for future Olympic Games: a building conceived from the outset to be dismantled.
I met with David Morley for a one-on-one before joining the ranks of spectators for the women’s water polo test event. He explained that the key driver for the design was to create a demountable venue from a kit of parts, many of which are rented and materials that can be recycled. Bespoke components were avoided so that all building elements could be easily reused in future. Even the foundations can be unscrewed from the ground and reused elsewhere.
When discussing the future for temporary structures in events like the Olympic games, Morley spoke of Sydney and Athens being quite sad places to walk around, ‘London will be exciting; [the temporary element] will create a more vibrant setting for the site’.
Morley cited the precedent of summer music festivals, which typically use 100% temporary and transportable venues, as proof that temporary architecture on a large scale is viable. The Olympic Games is quite literally a ‘sports festival’, so why aren’t more venues using concepts similar to the Water Polo?
The venue feels like a temporary structure – almost pavilion like. Once seated amongst the crowd in the main bank of seating, you become one fraction in the ‘wall of people’ ready to greet the athletes as they enter the space. The atmosphere during the Great Britain v Hungary match I attended was very exciting - a glimpse of what’s to come this summer.
The building, which includes a competition pool, warm-up pool and ancillary accommodation for spectators, athletes, press and VIPs, will be entirely deconstructed after the Games and most elements will re-used by the UK construction industry.
See David Morley Architect’s London 2012 Water Polo Arena in the Architects’ Journal Building Library or enter our reader offer for a chance to win a complimentary copy of Hattie Hartman’s book: London 2012 - Sustainable Design: Delivering a Games Legacy, for a more indepth review of the building.