Designing Legacy for London

London Olympic Stadium Transformation

  • London
  • 2016

Challenge. The legacy of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was not just about creating sporting history, but also in reshaping a large part of the host city; creating a new 500-acre park, new homes and extensive community facilities in east London.

When Populous designed the London 2012 Olympic Stadium, we did so with an ethos of ‘embracing the temporary’, in the knowledge that, post-Games, the stadium’s function would change and, as a result, the structure would need to change too. One of the main stipulations for the future use of the stadium was that it would retain its running track, whilst functioning as an economically sustainable multi-use venue.

Innovation. Populous’ transformation design solution embraces the opportunity to create a fantastic legacy for a building designed for a particular purpose, at a very special time.

Part of this transformation design incorporates the potential for a fully-automated system of retractable seating, with all four sides of the lower bowl designed to move over the new running track when in football mode. The fabric roof used during the games has been removed and replaced by a larger solid roof that is the largest single-span cable net stadium roof structure in the world; 45,000m2 in size, and 84m at its deepest point.

The new roof covers every seat in the stadium and has been designed to improve acoustics and heighten the spectator experience, reflecting the noise of the terraces, focussing the sound and projecting it towards the pitch. In order to preserve some of the Olympic Stadium’s unique identity, the iconic triangular lighting tower design that used to stand over the old roof has been inverted and they now hang underneath the new, larger roof.

In 2012, the concessions stands throughout the Olympic Park negated the requirement for hospitality provisions within the stadium itself. However, modern football clubs rely on the income generated by corporate hospitality facilities, as well as the more sophisticated concessions that are a common feature in general admission areas; to accommodate these needs a ‘halo’ of spectator facilities was conceived, encircling the stadium.

As well as improved hospitality offerings, this halo also includes entry turnstiles, which had previously been positioned away from the stadium, preventing public access to the island. As a result, the quality of the public realm immediately outside the stadium has been vastly improved, allowing community access to the arena island throughout the year.

Impact. Now sitting within the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the stadium successfully hosted 5 matches of the Rugby World Cup, including the third place play-off between South Africa and Argentina, in autumn 2015. It has also hosted packed crowds for rock legends AC/DC, the 2017 World Athletics and IPC Athletics Championships, and welcomed West Ham United to their new home ground in August 2016.