LONDON — While I’m qualified to tell you about strange scenes at the Olympics — such as Dirty Dancing at beach volleyball — I lack the expertise to review the 2012 Games from an architectural standpoint. I do, however, have a friend and former Central Park baseball teammate who was a senior architect for New York’s Olympic Bid Committee (NYC2012), a games advisor for London’s organizing committee (LOCOG) and currently works as a sports architect in New York. He is Scott Schiamberg, and this is his third guest post: an Olympic architect’s renderings of three venues he’d loved to have seen in London.
For a host city, the whole point of putting on an Olympics is to showcase yourself to the world. This is done by putting on extravagant Opening and Closing Ceremonies, building new venues and branding everything in a way that’s referred to as the “look of the Games.” An Olympic trend over the past three decades has been to enhance that “look” by creating temporary venues that capture the host city’s spirit, history and urban landscape. In my last post I reviewed the London’s best three creative-use venues: beach volleyball at Horse Guards Parade, archery at Lord’s Cricket Ground and triathlon at Hyde Park. Those are all impressive sites, but what if London had taken its venue/city integration plan even further? What follows are three dream venues that I wish would’ve happened in 2012:
1. Diving at Trafalgar Square
The 2004 U.S. Swimming Olympic Trials were hosted in the parking lot of Long Beach Arena in a temporary, almost pop-up facility that proved you could put on a major aquatics event in a wide-open urban space. One of London’s greatest urban spaces is Trafalgar Square, and what better way to honor its featured icon, Viscount Horatio Nelson, and his maritime accomplishments than by hosting outdoor diving? Drop a temporary tank and spectator seating in front of the already gorgeous backdrop, work in the existing fountains and — boom! — you have an iconic diving venue.
(I ranked Zaha Hadid’s Aquatics Centre as the best new venue in London, so it’s not as if diving got short shrift in London. I just wouldn’t have minded if it got its own showcase, rather than sharing it with swimming.)
2. Weightlifting at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater
(Source photo: Pawel Libera/Shakespeare’s Globe Theater)
This 1997-built replica of William Shakespeare’s original Globe Theater is a landmark celebrating the life’s work of England’s National Poet. My proposal glosses over some onerous logistical-and-backstage venue requirements, but putting weightlifting here would be a fitting way to gave the world’s poetic heavyweight a place in London’s Games.
3. Table Tennis at Tate Modern
In 2000, London transformed the former Bankside Power Station into the Tate Modern, which is now the world’s most-visited modern art gallery. Tate’s five-story Turbine Hall, which once housed electricity generators, is a setting that would add gravitas to a sport most Americans simply refer to as Ping-Pong. At the London games, table tennis — like weightlifting — was relegated to a convention-hall space at the ExCel Center. Packing seven sports into ExCeL made logistical sense, but it’s hard to resist the lure of Pong as Art.
The Venue That Never Will Be
My favorite fantasy venue of all-time was one we dreamed up in a never-proposed study by our NYC2012 bid team. It involved putting beach volleyball on a floating barge at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. Because the IOC requires the option of land transportation to every venue — and this would have been reachable only by boat — we didn’t include it in the actual bid. That doesn’t make it any less cool, though:
(Courtesy of NYC2012)