Trends towards temporary

John Barrow from global design company Populous examines the business case for flexible, reusable structures within the sports industry

In sports architecture’s early days, as a discipline, a clear distinction existed between an event’s permanent and temporary venues. One was designed with the long term in mind, to be used by the host city on an ongoing basis. The other was more often than not a collection of seats, tents and cabins put up for the duration of the event and then taken down. Over time, these lines have become blurred. Permanent buildings now have temporary facilities added, enabling venues to grow for a single event, such as the Super Bowl, or to host a series of events, like the Olympic Games. Temporary buildings design is also developing. An increasingly sophisticated use of materials and building techniques means that temporary structures can now.

Temporary Expansion
So what lies behind this growth in temporary architecture and what advantages can it bring? One key component is sustainability. Increasingly, cities hosting major events are nervous about the legacy that building a permanent structure for every sporting venue need can bring. Today’s host cities look for balance: a carefully thought-out mix of permanent and temporary venues that allow the city to hold the event as well as a sustainable, workable legacy.
The achievement of this balance necessitates the need for a business case on a venue by venue basis.

In the case of London 2012, there were three approaches: Should the venue be temporary; could existing venues be used and enhancedfor the Games; or, was a permanent venue justified. Crucially, these three options were considered within the context of the city’s existing facilities. In the case of cycling, for example, the questions were simple: does the UK have a velodrome currently? No. Does it need one? And will it be used afterwards? Yes and yes, are the answers, so a permanent venue was the solution. The velodrome aside, London is home to some spectacular historic and iconic venues. Clearly this had a major impact on the business case for permanent venues in several instances. The existence of the O2 Arena, for example, negated the need for an additional permanent 16,000-seat.

games taking place during the Olympics meant that more space was required for the duration of the event – and a temporary venue was the clear solution. In several instances we found a strong case for a hybrid approach – giving a
permanent facility the capacity to expand to host a particular event, then retract to a more manageable scale thereafter. The Aquatics Centre is a good example of this. Although the UK as a whole doesn’t have a high number of swimming facilities, its fairly average popularity as a sport would indicate that a pool with a 17,000-seat capacity would not be fully utilised. Thus, a brief was established to create a permanent venue with a more sustainable long-term capacity of 2,500 seats that could be temporarily expanded to 17,000 seats, to meet the requirements of the Games. Similarly, the Olympic Handball Arena has been given a unique field of play, where the seats in the lower bowl can completely retract – enabling community events to be hosted there after the Games. Chris Jopson, associate principal at Populous, welcomes the flexibility of this hybrid model. “The big difference with temporary architecture today,” he points out, “is that it’s now factored in from the very start and integrated into the design. Rather than being squeezed in, buildings are actually designed to have areas that are specifically for temporary seating.” He cites the Bristol City Stadium as a good example. Designed in the middle of a recession – and with England’s bid for the 2008 FIFA World Cup in mind – it was vital that the venue be future-proofed. The resulting structure is able to extend from a 30,000 to a 44,000 capacity and back again. The lower bowl has a core capacity that doesn’t change, but the upper bowl has ‘missing teeth’, meaning the north and south upper stands can be increased by 7,000 seats apiece. So the stadium has a distinctive aesthetic style and a flexibility that safeguards its future. This flexibility is key when it comes to an Olympic stadium. At Sydney 2000, the main stadium capacity was designed to reduce from 110,000 to 80,000 seats. For London 2012, the stadium is designed to hold 80,000 spectators during the Games, then the legacy model is reduced to a 25,000-seat stadium that works for both football and athletics events.

New Directions
The ability to adjust capacity is just part of the story, however. Purely temporary structures bring even greater flexibility, by taking sporting events into arenas where they would not normally be considered. As a World Heritage Site, it’s impossible to get permission to build a permanent structure in Greenwich Park, London. Yet by creating a temporary venue, which the authorities are satisfied can be erected and dismantled without damaging the park, London 2012 organisers are able to hold the Olympic equestrian events in a quintessentially British place of great beauty – showcasing the best of British. Similarly, the scheduling of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations, Trooping of the Colour and Olympic beach volleyball over a six-week period at Horse Guards Parade in London could not have been considered if the 15,000-seat beach volleyball venue had not been designed as a temporary structure – do to the short time frame available. In an increasingly competitive sporting world, host cities are looking for distinguishing factors, or defining moments. In the same way that the image of a diver standing against the backdrop of the city is a lasting memory of the 1994 Barcelona Olympic Games, so having an Olympic event staged against the backdrop of a London skyline encapsulates the spirit of London 2012 and really puts the city on the map. Temporary architecture also offers an opportunity to convert an existing sporting venue and use it for something else. Next summer, archers will be firing arrows across the iconic outfield at Lords Cricket Ground in St Johns Wood, London.
Just three weeks later, the venue will be put back to cricket mode so the game can be played there once again. In the US, our Denver office has been exploring the possibilities of this even further by putting ice hockey rinks in
baseball stadia and a ski jump, the Big Air, in the middle of Denver city centre.

Sustainable Structures
It’s clear then that flexibility is a major component in the business case for temporary architecture. Sustainability however, is also key. Temporary elements can be used and reused. Seating from the Cricket World Cup, for example, has made its way from the Caribbean islands around the world by water, a low-impact method of transport, and been used for various major events around the globe. The organsiers of Sochi, host of the Winter Games in 2014, originally
proposed to build each of its six venues as permanent structures. However, Populous advised that by creating three of those venues as temporary structures, would offer a more sustainable approach and a much stronger legacy – as those arenas could then be relocated around other parts of Russia after the Games. This in part illustrates another argument in favour of temporary architecture – financial savings. Not only are the direct building costs of temporary venues smaller than those of permanent structures, but there is a considerable saving over the lifecycle of a building. As well as reusing or recycling every component in a temporary structure, you avoid the
maintenance costs such as cleaning, heating and electricity, for example that are associated with a permanent structure.

Design for the Future
With its flexible hybrid facilities and imaginatively located temporary venues, London 2012 is a good model. It looks likely that Rio 2016, will follow its example, thus begging the question – what opportunities are there for temporary architecture in the future? I believe the key to future success and sustainability is in striking the right balance between a permanent core of facilities and a super-flexible complement of temporary additions. The industry is starting to respond to design demands for these temporary additions. The materials being used now are fully recyclable and design is becoming more intelligent , i.e. seating that folds up smaller, so more can be packed onto a lorry. This in turns leads to fewer lorries and fewer emissions. Essentially, it creates a virtuous cycle of sustainability. In the long term, the vision is to create a wide range of buildings from a standard kit of parts across the temporary event industry. This modularised system will ensure that each temporary component fits together smoothly, making the finished design neater and more efficient, and spelling an end to awkward-looking onsite fixes. At Populous, we certainly see the future of temporary architecture as being very creative. We’ll continue to explore materials in a new way, creating new potential for hosting sports and entertainment venues and strengthening the case for its use. Whether it’s an Olympic venue, a World Cup stadium, or a Formula One track, the same principles apply and our aim is to incorporate these principles at the very outset of a project so that
the architectural solution is fully resolved for the event, the overlay and the legacy requirements. One thing is certain: building on its current foundations of flexibility, sustainability and the ability to create the
extraordinary – temporary architecture is a discipline with an exciting future.