ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN
Few other post-war buildings took quite such
bold steps with concrete. All were confined
to a broadly orthogonal aesthetic by the
technology and practices of the day, with
curves reserved for the occasional stair or
detail. This persisted until the Millennium,
when generational change once again and a
range of new tools drove the next phase of
The fluid form of the London Aquatics
Centre is derived from a conceit of water in
motion, reflecting its purpose and location
in Stratford amidst a number of natural and
artificial rivers. Pre-dating the award of the
2012 Olympics to London, Zaha Hadid
Architects and Arup engineers designed a
building whose sinuous steel, aluminium
and glass upper ‘shell’sits atop a complex,
multi-purpose lower half formed entirely of
finely made, exposed reinforced concrete.
This sweeps along and around the two
main swimming pools, cupping them and
forming the seating terraces as it goes, and
also integrates the entire building with the
surrounding landscape and access bridge.
Below this, the training pool is top-lit by
apertures pierced in its roof, their shapes –
which themselves echo the liquid form of the
podium – morphing as they progress across
the plane of concrete.
The building, then, suggests several paths
for concrete’s future. Its compositional
flexibility is yielding new mixes with higher
strength, greater resistance to discolouration
or a smoother final finish.Deployed via
parametric modelling and advanced digital
structural analysis, concrete can now achieve
an elegant permanence never previously
seen. Largely decoupled from the tyranny of
ideology, its second hundred years seem both
solid and indeterminate.
How to read London: A crash course in London architecture
by Chris Rogers is now available from Ivy Press. Visit:www.quartoknows.com .
160m long and
up to 80mwide,
is based on the
concept of a giant
wave sweeping up
from the ground.