DESIGN FOCUS Olympic Icons

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The centrepiece of the London 2012 Olympic Games, the Olympic Stadium in Stratford will be able to accommodate up to 80 000 people throughout the Games.

A functional, rather than necessarily a beautiful design, the stadium has been designed with legacy and flexibility in mind – when the Games finish it will be converted into a 60 000-seat sporting arena.

The Stadium is on an ‘island’ site, surrounded by waterways on three sides so spectators will walk across one of five bridges to reach the venue.

And as with all stadia, there are plenty of impressive sounding statistics. Stadium designer Populous – a specialist in sports architecture – says the venue features 50km of seats lined up side by side, and glass balustrades in 56 different colours.

Above this bowl is the main stadium structure – featuring the temporary upper seating tier – which is made from tubular steel. Seats are in black and white, to allow the Olympics branding to stand out.

External colour is provided by an exterior wrap, which will circle the entire stadium. Initial talk suggested that this would either be made from a sustainable material, or take in interactive elements. Last year Dow Chemical announced it would sponsor the wrap.
The wrap has been designed by artist Sophie Smallhorn and installed in a project with a total cost of £7 million. It is formed from canvas banners that run from the top to the bottom of the stadium’s exterior, creating 300 ‘doorways’.
The wrap uses the four main brand colours of the Olympics logo – green pink and orange – with each colour designating one of the four stadium entrances.

Part of the roof’s supporting structure is 2,500 tonnes of steel tubing recycled from old gas pipelines.

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The very first instruction to designers of London’s Olympic cauldron was a blunt directive: no moving parts.
What resulted was an elaborate creation involving 204 moving pieces, each representing the coming together of the competing countries.

Creator Thomas Heatherwick said Saturday that test runs on the cauldron were done in secret in the north of England before the assembly was brought to the stadium and discreetly tested this week — but only after airspace restrictions prevented news helicopters from getting an advance look.

Heatherwick said the design sought to project a world unified by sport.

Petal-shaped heat elements made from hammered copper were created for each country and then carried into the stadium by children during the parade of countries. At the end of the games, each of these petals will be given to each nation and the cauldron would ‘dismantle itself’ and disappear.

“We were aware that cauldrons have been getting bigger, higher and fatter as each Olympics has happened and we felt that we shouldn’t try to be even bigger than the last ones,” he said.
“It didn’t feel enough to just design a different shape of bowl on a stick, and so we were trying to think from the most fundamental where – as much as how – as much what, and working with Danny [Boyle] on who would make this happen.”
He said that the concept of having no cauldron, “the stadium having no ‘thing’ in it”, was how he approached the design.
He was aiming for “these 204 very small, humble objects where they come together and rise, rear out of the surface of centre the stadium”.

The copper petals were made by traditionally skilled craftsmen of the sort who used to roll sheet metal to make body parts for car makers such as Bentley, according to Heatherwick.
The cauldron was made by Australian firm FCT Flames, which specialises in the design, manufacture and operation of flame effects for ceremonial events.

The Olympic Torch has been the most visible of the London 2012 Olympic design icons in the run-up to the Games.

Since starting its journey around Britain on 19 May, the torch has rarely been out of the newspapers, and we’ve had a rare opportunity to see an Olympic design go through product testing in front of a national audience.
We already knew that Barber Osgerby’s torch – winner of the Design Museum’s Design of the Year – was a beautiful object, but now we’re getting to see whether or not it’s fit for purpose.

The torch – which is made from an aluminium alloy and weights in at just over 1kg – seems to have held up pretty well to the British ‘summer’. This is despite the fact that, unusually, you can see through the holes punched in the torch to the burner unit.

In fact, these holes are the key design element of the torch: 8000 of them to represent the 8000 torchbearers who will carry it around the country.
The Guardian has had a good stab at identifying all 8000 of these torchbearers. It says that although all 8000 are named on the Locog website, there are 500 ‘mystery torchbearers’ whose biographies aren’t included.

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