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It's time to celebrate Olympic architecture

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This is the moment to celebrate the Olympic designers even if LOCOG won’t, writes Christine Murray

I watched the opening ceremony in Hackney’s Haggerston Park, surrounded by a thousand or so young families and twenty-somethings picnicking on the lawn in front of a big screen. The broadcast elicited a pantomime atmosphere, with cheers for the suffragettes, the Beatles and the NHS, and an unsportsmanlike boo for Team USA. The crowd shrieked in approval when the camera turned to 500 construction staff representing the builders of the Olympic Park.

They would have cheered the architect of the Olympic Stadium too, had anyone thought to mention Populous – or, indeed, that the Olympic Park was designed in Britain, by British architects and engineers – surely a unique achievement in the history of the Games, where importing talent is the norm. 

This week Peter Murray continued his protest against LOCOG’s absurd Olympics marketing protocol by wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the architects and engineers of the London 2012 Games to UKTI’s Creative Service Summit. He even got Minister for Culture Ed Vaizey to put it on.

For the record, LOCOG’s marketing gag order for the architects of the Games has not prevented the AJ from publishing any London Olympic buildings. We’ve worked with the ODA to publish all of the major venues, from Populous’ Olympic Stadium (AJ 07.04.11), to Zaha Hadid’s Aquatics Centre (AJ 18.08.11), and a 100-page book on Hopkins’ Velodrome (September 2011). The AJ team has also visited the park on multiple occasions, often with photographers. The ODA has not asked to sign off AJ buildings studies, nor sought to ensure positive coverage.

But we do know architects that have been excised from coverage of the Games for unknown reasons. When putting the final touches to her book, London 2012: Sustainable Design, AJ sustainability editor Hattie Hartman was asked to remove all references to the architects and delivery teams from chapter headings and photography captions, and to relegate them to two pages of credits at the back.

AJ Specification Editor Felix Mara was bemused to watch Channel 5’s Megastructures: London’s Olympic Stadium, in which principal architect Rod Sheard and engineer Paul Westbury are mentioned, but not Populous nor Buro Happold (referred to only as ‘Team Stadium’). Ironic, given Populous is a third-tier sponsor of the Games and not bound by the protocol.

It is shocking, as Paul Finch points out in his column, that in the TV coverage of the opening, Populous was not mentioned, nor any other architecture practices involved in the building of Games venues.

In this issue, we’ve published our own version of Murray’s T-shirt with a special issue featuring 20 London Olympic 2012 projects across our pages, including Penoyre & Prasad’s East Village Health Centre, Stanton Williams’ Eton Manor, Heatherwick’s Olympic cauldron, and 17 projects we’ve collected in the AJ Buildings Library, collated in a commemorative insert – with more to come. If you’ve completed an Olympic project, please contact AJ Buildings Library editor Tom Ravenscroft to record your project in the AJBL.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • There does not seem to be any reference here to what has been the protocol for previous Olympics. Was there a gag order on the architects of the Birdsnest and Watercube? The gag order actually seems counterproductive to the Olympic "machine" and I would think that celebrating the Architects and the architecture would only increase public interest and support of all kinds.

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