SI.com has enlisted the help of the bloggers behind Canadian Design Resource to author a series of posts on the design spirit of their country’s three Olympic Games: Montreal 1976, Calgary 1988, and Vancouver 2010. Today, CDR’s Jesse Jackson takes a look at Canada’s Olympic Ovals:
Like the neighbouring stadium, Montrealâ€™s Olympic Velodrome was designed by Mayor Jean Drapeau’s hand-picked muse, French architect Roger Taillibert. Its construction cost was similarly over-budget: in this case $70 million Canadian, which was $58 million more than projected as a result of labour unrest and the difficulty of fabricating and assembling the large number of unique pre-cast concrete segments required. Architect John Hix described the resulting building as â€śsome giant Paleozoic tribolite come to rest at the bottom of the sea.â€ť Its dramatically lit interior space hosted the track cycling and judo events at the 1976 Summer Games.
Velodrome Olympique, Montreal
Agence Roger Taillibert, gouvernement du QuĂ©bec, 1976
Much to the frustration of cycling fans, who lost what was arguably the finest indoor velodrome in the world, the building has housed the Montreal Biodome since 1992. This popular tourist attraction re-creates five North American ecosystems indoors.
The closest equivalent event to track cycling at the Winter Games is speed skating; many athletes cross between the two sports. Canadian cyclist and speed skater Clara Hughes won multiple Olympic medals at both the Summer and Winter Games: sheâ€™s the only person to have accomplished this feat.
Calgary’s Olympic Oval, which housed the speed skating events in 1988, was emphatically under-budget: Calgaryâ€™s organizers were ever mindful of the financial disaster of the 1976 event. Also constructed of architecturally expressive pre-cast concrete components, the rational symmetry of the Ovalâ€™s lattice contrast the structural inefficiency of its zoomorphic Montreal counterpart.
The Olympic Oval, Calgary
Graham McCourt Architects, Simpson Lester Goodrich Partnership, 1988
Calgaryâ€™s facility was the first of its type: previous Olympic speed skating events had been contested outdoors. As a result, the Oval quickly became known as the â€śWorldâ€™s Fastest Ice,â€ť and it remains the location of the largest number of International Skating Union world records: 30, as of March 2008. As with the Saddledome, the Oval was designed by the Calgary firm Graham McCourt Architects, this time with the Simpson Lester Goodrich Partnership providing the structural engineering.
The Richmond Olympic Oval, by Cannon Design, is the most significant new facility constructed for the 2010 Games. Its gently curved wooden ceiling, constructed from salvaged local lumber damaged by pine-beetle infestation, is an architectural marvel. Innovatively engineered by Fast+Epp, the ceilingâ€™s aesthetic and acoustical qualities create an interior environment that is warm and inviting. Much is being made of the energy and environmental performance of Vancouverâ€™s Olympic venues, and with its innovative material reclamation, heat recovery, and rainwater collection features, the Richmond Olympic Oval is no exception.
The Richmond Olympic Oval
Cannon Design, Fast+Epp, 2009
Richmondâ€™s Oval will be converted into a multipurpose athletic facility at the conclusion of the Games, at the expense of the 400-metre long-track, which is just as well, given that this ice is proving to be notoriously slow. The Calgary Oval will remain Canadaâ€™s primary training facility for elite skaters, while the Richmond Oval is envisioned to become the athletic focal point of a new waterfront community. Clara Hughes, now 37 and Canadaâ€™s flag bearer at this yearâ€™s opening ceremony, will compete in her fifth Olympic Games in the Richmond Oval.
(On Friday, the CDR crew took a look at Canada’s Olympic stadiums.)