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KEIM Edition No.1: Zaha Hadid Architects

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  • Hadid
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LONDON AQUATICS CENTRE

LONDON AQUATICS CENTRE One of the most spectacular buildings in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is without doubt the aquatics centre planned by Zaha Hadid Architects. The most exciting feature is the huge roof, which floats like a dynamic wave measuring 11,000 square feet over the swimming pool. 160 metres long and weighing 3,200 tonnes, the steel structure rests on just three mighty columns that take all the static and dynamic forces. A great work not just of architecture but also of structural engineering, provided once again by Ove Arup & Partners. Beneath the undulating roof are the 50 metres competition pool and the 25 metres diving pool with four sculptural diving platforms soaring along the edge. With their combination of soft surface progressions and clear edges, they stand for the design language of the entire complex, for flowing lines and volumes that reflect the nature of water. The base of the building is made of exposed concrete consisting of up to 75% recycled aggregate. Tiles were only used in areas that have direct contact with the water. Between the roof and the building itself, huge glass facades flood the pool with natural light, with advantages in terms of both atmosphere and energy efficiency. A highly insulated, impervious building envelope, ventilation with highly efficient heat recovery and demand-controlled heating from the municipal supply network reduce the annual carbon footprint to a calculated 54 grams per square metre. By using the pool overflow to flush the toilets, the demand for fresh water is cut by 40%; showers with flow limiters save 35% water – and corresponding amounts of energy for heating the water. After all, not even athletes always want a cold shower, let alone the mere mortals who have been swimming in the pool since it was opened to the general public in March 2014. This subsequent use was a central part of the concept, which was planned for the „Olympic Mode“ and the „Legacy Mode“ to cover the period after the Olympic Games. The most striking difference is the seating in the stands: today the seating capacity allows for 2,500 spectators, compared to an audience of 17,500 during the Olympic Games. Even Zaha Hadid struggled with this dichotomy and a compromise had to be found. An unsightly one, it has to be said. During the Olympic Games, large additional stands were fitted above the permanent seating along the two longitudinal sides. From the outside, they looked like two clumsy volumes fitted directly to the roof. Sports fans actually saw nothing of the double-curvature roof, while the supplementary features prevented people inside the building from seeing outside. And so it was not until 2014 that the Aquatics Centre revealed its originally intended design, after the extensions had been removed and the glass facade completed. 628 panes were fitted, each weighing around 250 kilos and measuring about 1.5 x 3.0 metres in size, totalling altogether 2,800 square metres. By the way, hot water flows through the bronze-coloured steel support structure which acts as a huge heating element to prevent condensation on the panes of glass. 8

WEIGHTLESS AND FLOWING The dotted design printed in varying sizes and densities across the whole height serves as an antireflection and shading solution where necessary. The entrance to the Aquatics Centre and its pools with ten million litres of water is above the pool level from the generous Stratford City Bridge, where the roof comes down in a very low, wide curve as a generous welcoming gesture to visitors as an expression of appreciation and invitation. By the way, the training section is below the bridge level with its own 50 metre pool. Instead of putting it in a purely utilitarian construction, here the roof again is a surprising feature. Not that this is another curved design, but the numerous tear-shaped skylights form an elegant contrast to the heavy concrete grid structure, letting in plenty of natural light. LONDON AQUATICS CENTRE Architecture Zaha Hadid, Patrik Schumacher Project management Jim Heverin Structural engineering Ove Arup & Partners Client Olympic Delivery Authority Location London-Stratford Construction period 2005–2011 Internet www.londonaquaticscentre.org 9