The venues for the London 2012 Olympic Games form an elaborate matrix of buildings that are temporary, permanent or a hybrid of the two. The Basketball Arena, a PVC tent designed by English team 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.
The decision to employ a temporary structure for the Olympics speaks truthfully to the nature of the games itself, but also negates the common perception that permanency of structure equals monumental architecture. It also avoids the inevitable neglect and uncertainty that befalls the largest, most grandiose of Olympic stadia.
The design of the new Basketball Arena 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.
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 London’s Tate Gallery and longer than a football pitch, it was erected in only 15 months – one of the fastest constructions on the site.
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.
Technical info: White PVC Fabric
Picture credits: Courtesy Anthony Charlton