Fittingly inspired by 'waves, the water, sea life and sea life creatures,' according to its architect British-based Zaha Hadid, the new Aquatics Centre has just been completed, marking at the same time the official start for the London 2012 Olympic Games 1-year countdown.
Situated within the East London Olympic site, near the Park's south entrance, the Aquatics Centre is surrounded by the other main venues, as well as Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond's swiftly rising bright red ArcelorMittal Orbit. 'It is positioned as a gateway and the lifting entrance canopy will invite the visitors in,' explains lead architect Jim Heverin.
Its aerodynamic, aquatic-creature-inspired form is distinct, although as this is a forward-reaching project and firmly rooted to the legacy plan, it will only be revealed in its full glory after the Games. The characteristic timber-clad steel-framed curvaceous roof may be currently sandwiched between two steel extensions of decks and seating in order to accommodate the necessary numbers for the games, but it will cleverly downsize loosing its side additions after the Olympics to form a more sensibly sized, sustainable pool centre for the local community.
A number of regulations and restrictions -- including a site restriction, the Centre being bordered by the river on one side and the rail tracks on the other -- helped dictate the structure's shape both inside and out, although Hadid's design presence is unmistakable. From the building's smooth main material - concrete - to its family of five beautifully curved diving platforms, created out of the same cast on varying heights, the main elements and detailing is contemporary and dynamic.
The ceilings were not left out; quite the contrary. From the main competitive and diving pool hall grey sustainably sourced hardwood rolling roof to the concrete waffle-mesh shaped practice pool ceiling and even the perforated changing rooms one, ceilings seem to have been treated as one of interiors' main design features. Meanwhile the overall building 'achieves the biggest reduction possible in terms of carbon footprint', said Heverin.
Surrounded by the recently completed Olympic Stadium, the velodrome, handball and basketball arenas and the international broadcast centre, the Hadid-designed Aquatics Centre is ready for Olympic business, while also looking firmly ahead to its legacy afterlife. 'The aim was to do a pool for the legacy. It was very important that this project had a long-term, balanced effect,' says Hadid.