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2012 Olympic Dining/ 2020 Education Campus: Phase Change

Part 1 Project 2008
Rebecca Roberts
University of Cambridge | UK
Phase Change 2012/2020

The London Olympics stages the context for this project. Based on the edge of the Olympic Village in the Lower Lea Valley, the new settlement meets the existing Stratford community with a 6m bank of earth.

Dual Program: The building exists as the dining hall for the Olympic athletes and their families during the games in summer 2012 transforming into four schools in 2020 to serve both the new and existing communities. The building addresses the two extreme programmes and their social and political contexts through themes of sustainability and potentiality.

The environmental context introduces phase change on a macro and micro scale. In the urban context it provides an exciting volumetric space for diners in which the legacy schools are built into. The study of cooling towers as a system of natural ventilation for a large and densely occupied space potentially fulfils the requirements for the dining hall in 2012; max capacities can reach 5500 with a total of 17 000 athletes passing through the building each day. The construction of modern timber cooling towers has influenced the geometry and overall aesthetic in which the brief is to be installed. Cooling towers are sunk into the frame to reduce their traditionally iconic appearance.

On the micro scale, the discovery of phase change material as a way to reduce temperature fluctuations within a building led to a number of investigations. Classroom walls lined with PCM can absorb heat energy when the room is too warm and re-release it when the room becomes too cool. The transformation from a radically large cooling tower system to smaller environments more delicately controlled with PCM uses the same structure, designed to allow for growth and change during its long life span as a servant to its community.

Rebecca Roberts

Over the next five years London will make a new city within itself for the 2012 Olympics. Glossy renderings promise a thriving urban centre for a perfect global spectacle. Words such as sustainability and legacy constantly remind us of the bright future beyond the two weeks in August 2012. However not far below the surface lie our contemporary anxieties over security, real estate, social mobility, etc… Our project this year was taken directly from the actual master plan for the Athletes village and was developed against two radically different programmatic constraints: a ‘first life’ as the dining hall for the Olympic Athletes during the games in summer 2012, which will later become a school to serve both new and existing communities. The projects addressed the two extreme programs and their social and political contexts. During the Games the site will be one of the most watched spaces and highest security compounds on earth. After the Games, the site will need to reach out and form new connections.

This project for a dual programme building for the 2012 Olympics and post-Olympic regeneration showed a complexity rarely seen in undergraduate work. The student’s ability to develop rigorous technical and environmental parameters into a wonderful public building showed a great grasp of some of the larger themes facing contemporary architecture. But it was the strength of the architectural imagination that transformed the technical research into a radical and epic public building with more in common with the Cedric Price’s Fun Palace than the often pious but dull product of ecologically driven architecture. The large final models were both design tools full of speculation and experiment and wonderful architectural objects in their own right.

The approach was driven by an environmental strategy which started with the climatic possibility of Phase Change Materials in order to respond to and control the two opposing programs. The PCM thesis grew from the molecular into the architectural and urban (absorbing the cooling towers as an epic embodiment of phase change) which was then an elaborate constructional approach, fusing simple traditional timber construction with lightweight high-tech materiality. The project challenged and extended the brief beyond the duality of the Olympic dinning hall / Legacy school into a piece of ‘potential’ urbanism where the unexplored possibilities of the city are present within a single building.

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