Rio 2016 Architecture Olympics: Which Venue Will Win Gold?

Rio 2016 Architecture Olympics: Which Venue Will Win Gold?

The Olympics: we all know the drill. A whirlwind 16-days of ‘did you see that?!’ moments broadcast from incredible architecture, as athletes compete to see who will be crowned the greatest. It’s an incredible display of achievement, but the athletes aren’t the only ones who will be on show. With each new Games comes a whole new round of venues, with designers striving to be bolder than ever before. But with so many to choose from, which building will be remembered as the most innovative, the most atmospheric, the most striking? Here are the contenders for Rio 2016 Architecture Gold:

Maracanã_Stadium_in_Rio_de_Janeiro
Credit: Arthur Boppre

Originally built for the 1950 FIFA World Cup, Rio’s mega Maracanã was the world’s largest stadium when it opened and was one of the most luxurious ones too. Affectionately dubbed a ‘temple of emotion and joy’, it’s already had it’s fair share of great moments: housing the largest audience in the history of football, witnessing Pele’s 1000th goal and playing host to the Pope. If buildings were Olympic athletes, Maracanã would be the bookie’s firm favourite.

Recent re-fits have seen the two-tier seating bowl demolished to make way for one level and the original concrete roof replace with a fibreglass tensioned membrane. An interior refit also brought the country’s national colours to the stadium, with the yellow, blue and white seats combining with the green grass.

youth arenaCredit: Leonardo Finotti

One of the most visually striking venues of the Rio Games, the minimalist Youth Arena has already been marked as one of the Olympics’ greatest legacies, with plans to adapt it for use as a training and education centre for athletes once the Games finish. Using a sports hanger as a design concept, architects Vigilecca & Associados constructed the shell of the building using steel to help support its 66.5-metre span. The building plans also incorporate with natural ventilation and illumination, with adjustable shading devices, screens and large shaded areas on the façade and exhaust openings on the roof contributing to much lower maintenance costs.

futureCredit: Rio 2016

You’ve probably heard the term ‘nomadic architecture’ mentioned a fair few times in the lead up to Rio, and the Future Arena is a perfect example of that practice in play. The process often leads to multiple buildings being planned at once, allowing for materials used in the first, temporary structure to be re-used in other buildings once the original is dismantled. As well as being a brilliant method of sustainable design, it helps host cities avoid building their very own ‘white elephant’ – costly venues left abandoned once the Games have finished – which have burdened previous Olympics cities.

Future Arena is such a venue. Built to host Handball and Paralympic Goalball matches, it’s specific but temporary use means that it may well have stood empty in the years to come. Now, however, it will be dismantled and used in the construction of four state schools in the city. AndArchitects, the designers of the building, say that the parts due for reuse include the Arena’s roof, cladding, main structural steel elements, disabled ramps and precast stairs. It also noted the “distinctive architectural language’ communicated by the open nature of the external rain screen and ramp, which would be recognisable in the design of the new schools.

a5fmQTdfCredit: Rio 2016

Another of Rio’s nomadic architecture designs, the Olympic Aquatics Centre will be pulled apart and rebuilt as two smaller venues after the summer. The most interesting part of the building, however, is its ventilation system: average Games-time temperatures at the heart of the Olympic Park were used to calculate the airflow required to keep the venue at a pleasant temperature, resulting in the drilling of 15,000 strategically place holes into the structure. Rio’s Government have said that without the energy-saving technology, the equivalent of 10,000 household air conditioning units would have been needed to cool the arena.

UwhVBw02Credit: Rio 2016/Alex Ferro

Velodromes always seem to be the most visually dynamic Olympic venues, and Rio’s is no exception. As an existing structure built for the Pan American games, the venue has undergone significant redevelopment, and despite being marred by delayed construction and a change in contractors, it has been praised by athletes who have recently tested the track.


So who should win gold? Plucky newcomer Future Arena, with it’s innovative, sustainable design, the helmet-inspired Velodrome, which kept officials on the edge of their seats with it’s delays before opening to positive reviews, or the nation’s favourite, the Maracanã, who’s vastness is sure to ignite unforgettable opening and closing ceremonies? Let us know your choice by tweeting @HintonSpencer.

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