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Arched pathways cut through Hangzhou office block by Julien De Smedt

Two massive voids cut diagonally through this office tower in Hangzhou, China, by JDS Architects to create an arched pathway underneath and a stepped park on top.

The 16-storey Hangzhou Gateway is located in the city’s Gongshu District, an old industrial neighbourhood undergoing urban transformation.

The “H-shaped” building – created by its two voids – hosts workspaces, along with shops, a restaurant and a post office.

JDS Architects carved the diagonal pathway under the building to link the historical market hall on one side – which is being renovated – and a public green space on the other.

Triangular patches of greenery are slotted along the path as a continuation of surrounding parks, while long benches are intended to invite passersby to pause.

“The design engages with Hangzhou’s rich and diverse architectural history by reinterpreting the traditional Chinese gateway and reconnecting with the city’s tradition of proximity to nature,” said De Smedt, who won a competition to design the building.

“The path under the building is made to establish and enhance a connection throughout the overall masterplan,” he explained, “transforming the building from a hindering wall of office space to a geometry that facilitates circulation; the design of this social amenity gives the building its unique identity.”

Concave in plan, the walkway splits the lower floors of the 23,600 square-metre building into two to create quarter-circle plans. Windows popped out from the curved wall above the walkway provide views between the work spaces and the public pathway.

“By lifting its mass into an arch the building recreates a gateway between two surrounding public spaces rather than a hindering wall of office space,” said the architect.

“The double-curved surface of the arch and the graphic pattern of green space invites passersby to meander through.”

The roof void creates a green park on a series of stepped terraces –  a reference to the ancient Chinese rice-field landscapes.

Oriented in the opposite direction to the pathway below, the opening provides maximum sunlight and views for office workers.

The staggered landscape also acts as rainwater retainer, which re-uses water to help cool down the building.

Two vertical circulation spaces serve as the main structural supports and brace the lower floor plates. The middle floor plates span these two cores like a simple beam to create a stable platform for the upper floors.

JDS Architects is based in Brussels, Copenhagen, Belo Horizonte and Shanghai.

Other projects by the firm led by Julien De Smedt include an angular concrete community centre in Lille, a hump-shaped home in the Jura mountains and a Seoul block featuring a facade of cube-shaped balconies.

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The Physics Of Ancient Roman Architecture

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine from college got married in Rome, providing an excellent excuse to finally go visit a city I’ve wanted to see for years. We spent about a week there, doing some heavy tourism despite the unpleasant heat. It’s a gorgeous city, and we didn’t come close to seeing everything it has to offer, but there was one site we made a point of visiting twice: the Pantheon.


The Pantheon, which technically is the “Basilica di Santa Maria ad Martyres,” having been consecrated as a Christian church in the 600′s, was originally built as a temple to all the Roman gods back in the reign of Augustus, but destroyed in one of ancient Rome’s many devastating fires. It was rebuilt around 120 CE, completed in the reign of Hadrian (who decided to confuse future archaeologists by re-using the original massive portico with its inscription crediting the building to Marcus Agrippa), and has remained remarkably intact for nearly 1900 years.

The signature feature of the Pantheon is its giant dome, 43 meters across and 43 meters high, with an 8-meter open “oculus” in the center. The dome is made of concrete, then a relatively new material perfected by the Romans, and to this day is the largest un-reinforced concrete dome in the world.


The dome is a truly awe-inspiring sight, and like most tourists who visit the place, I immediately wondered “How in the world did they make that?” As I’m a great big geek with access to an academic library, this wondering has gone on a good bit longer than most, and led to reading journal articles about computer simulations of the Pantheon’s dome, and to checking out multiple books on Roman architecture and construction techniques. I’ll probably have more to say about that in another post, but for the moment I want to talk about a little basic physics.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that there’s a great deal of science involved in the construction of something as colossal as the Pantheon, but in the general reductionist spirit of physics, we can break it down to a really simple balance of two forces: gravity pulling the components of the roof down, and forces from the concrete and bricks of the structure trying to keep it up. The Pantheon succeeds because its designers did a brilliant job of playing these off against each other, but an inherently three-dimensional structure like a dome is really complicated, so in the traditional manner of physics analysis, we’ll simplify it further, because the essential idea is captured by another signature feature of Roman architecture, the arch.


The photo above shows a section of the Aqua Claudia, one of the many aqueducts bringing clean water to Rome from 40-odd miles away. This is slightly older than the Pantheon, begun during the reign of Caligula and finished in the reign of Claudius (though it was repaired several times after that), and also an amazing engineering achievement. The water flowed underground for a large portion of its course, but when the ground drops away closer to the city, the channel was supported on this long chain of arches, providing a more gentle drop in elevation that avoids too-rapid flow or backing up.

The arches supporting the aqueduct give it a kind of elegant look, but they might seem like an unnecessary complication for supporting what is, after all, essentially just a straight pipe. The Romans knew, though, that arches are, in fact, the best structure for this kind of thing, providing a sturdy and stable support for the water channel that’s held up for nigh on 2,000 years. And it’s all thanks to physics.

The best way to explain why an arch is a good structure for supporting an aqueduct is to start by explaining why a flat top would be a bad idea. So, let’s think about bridging some gap with just a straight piece of material, like this:


I’ve drawn this as five blocks right next to each other, but it needn’t be an actual division– you can think of a continuous piece of material, if you prefer, and only imagine breaking it into segments for purposes of physics analysis.

If we zoom in on just one segment, there are three forces that matter: a force of gravity pulling down (green arrow), and two forces from the neighboring segments pulling it up to keep it from falling (reddish arrows). If it’s a set of blocks, like the classic Don’t Break The Ice game, these would be frictional forces (and there would need to be compression forces pushing in on either end); if it’s a solid piece of material, they’re internal forces from the bonds holding whatever it is together. If the straight bar isn’t going to fall, these forces must add up to zero, and if you imagine stacking the two red arrows on top of each other, you can see that they’re the same height as the green one.

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The critical issue, though, is where these forces act. Gravity pulls on every subpart equally, which has the net effect of acting on the center of mass of the segment. The forces from the neighboring segments, though, are contact forces, and act where the segments come together, parallel to the boundary. The end result is an upward push on both ends and a downward pull in the middle, which will tend to stretch the segment down, and that, in turn, causes the whole thing to stretch a little. What happens then depends on the material you’re using. Something like wood or metal has a decent amount of tensile strength, and can stand up to a bit of stretching, but stones, bricks, and concrete have much less tensile strength, and will tend to fracture. At which point the whole thing comes tumbling down. So building a flat-topped aqueduct out of stone is a Bad Idea.

An arch, on the other hand, lets you redirect forces in a way that avoids this tendency to fracture. If we re-imagine our span as a five-brick arch instead, it looks like this:


In this case, each of the blocks (which again, could be discrete bits or imaginary subdivisions of a continuous material) is a trapezoid shape. If we focus in on the top block, the keystone, we see how this changes the dynamics. We still have a green arrow for gravity pulling straight down, and we still have red arrows parallel to the boundary, but the change in shape means we also get a contact force perpendicular to the boundary on each side, pushing up-and-left or up-and-right. For discrete blocks, this is a Newton’s Third Law force– as gravity pulls the keystone down, it presses into the blocks to either side, exerting a force on them, and they press back with an equal and opposite force.

All four of these forces now need to add up to zero to keep the arch stable, and you can see that it works out by stringing the arrows for the contact forces together and finding that they end up matching the force of gravity (in the lower right of the figure). And while we still have forces acting in different places, because they’re directed inward, they don’t stretch the block, but compress it instead. This is great, because stone, bricks, and concrete have tremendous strength in compression, so the block is much more likely to maintain its integrity. (The parallel-to-the-boundary friction-type force arrows are much smaller here, and if you design your arch properly, you can basically make them as small as you like, making the force essentially all compression.)

There is one complication here, that we can see by choosing to look at one of the blocks out near the end (the technical name for these is “voussoirs,” because everything sounds cooler in French):


For this block, I left out the friction-type parallel forces entirely, to simplify things a little. Here, we still have gravity pulling down, but now the two contact forces have different magnitudes. On the upper side, there’s a contact force from the second block up, which is due to both its weight and the push it feels from the keystone. On the bottom side, the force is much larger, because it needs to match the vertical component of both gravity and the push from the rest of the arch.

If we do the stringing-together-arrows thing, though, we can see that these don’t quite match perfectly– there’s a leftover outward force, represented by the red arrow. This needs to be countered by something else– generally great big wall of some sort– and for this reason you’ll sometime hear people talking about how arches will direct vertical loads into horizontal forces.

The key thing here, though, is that all these forces are compression forces. If you’re making an aqueduct, you can just chain arches together ad infinitum, and the outward push of one will provide the inward push needed to hold the next one up, and vice versa. If you’re making a building, you just anchor your arches in a really massive wall, and the Romans didn’t mess around with this sort of thing– the Pantheon walls are about six meters thick. Either way, the arch gives you a great tool for spanning a big space without actually needing to fill the whole thing with bricks.

(In fact, if you look closely at the exterior shot of the Pantheon, you can see that the top level contains “blind arches,” which are very strongly built to hold the weight of the dome, and then bricked up inside. The Romans loved their arches, even when they wanted a solid wall.)


A three-dimensional dome like that on the Pantheon is a little more complicated than a two-dimensional arch, but the basic idea is the same: the weight of the top bit is supported by the push from lower parts of the dome, in a way that minimizes the tension forces concrete can’t really handle, in favor of compression forces that concrete is ideal for. With a dome, you also need to worry about stretching around the circumference as the outward push tries to make the dome stretch, and the builders of the Pantheon played some clever tricks to counteract that, changing to a lighter concrete mix near the top of the dome, and adding massive reinforcing rings toward the outside.

The central ideas that make the whole awe-inspiring structure possible are just basic introductory Newtonian physics, though. Of course, this raises an interesting question, namely how did the Romans know to do all this, given that the central physics principles weren’t clearly articulated for another millennium and a half? That gets further outside my core expertise, thus the checking out of books from the Union College library, so I’ll save that discussion for a future post…

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Architectural Masterpieces Topping Every Young Traveler’s List

Because architecture is cool.

Architecture isn’t solely the interest of older generations; instead, it’s a prime interest of millennials, student tourists, young explorers. Here are 10 of the most frequently visited works of architecture topping every young traveler’s list.

The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France


The Eiffel Tower is one of the world’s most iconic works of architecture, making it a top attraction for young, wide-eyed travelers. Built for the 1889 World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower is a thousand-foot-high masterpiece of latticed wrought iron, nuts and bolts. All 7,300 tons of it’s intricately designed frame has been hand- painted (and repainted) to remain looking shiny and new for generations of travelers to climb it’s limbs. The Tower is open to the public 365 days a year and has 3 levels to explore. The transparent first floor is accessible by stairs and has resting areas, restaurants and an immersion show; the second floor has a champagne bar to toast to past, present and future adventures; and the jaw-dropping third floor has a picture-perfect, panoramic view of the city of love. It should come as no surprise that the top of the Eiffel Tower is the venue-of-choice for countless proposals and true loves first (french) kiss.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Pisa, Italy


Built from 1173 until 1399 in the small Italian city of Pisa, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is a stunning, yet confusing work of architecture. Everyday young tourists hop on the train from Florence to Pisa to find out one thing and one thing only… why is the leaning tower… leaning? The fact is, it wasn’t designed to be a leaning tower. During the bell tower’s creation, it began to angle to the side a little, and then a little more, and then a lot. To prevent the tower from leaning to the point of its collapse, architects brainstormed ways to stop its frame from slanting. They decided upon curving the frame of the tower–and it worked! Today, tourists can still climb the 251 steps to the top of the pure-white tower and peer down over the city.

The Taj Mahal, Agra, India


The Taj Mahal is an Indo-Islamic architectural masterpiece that remains the ultimate monument of love. The Taj Mahal was built by the fifth Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, to commemorate the life of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz Mahal, died after giving birth to her thirteenth child. Immediately after her death, Shah Jahan began planning the design for an appropriate mausoleum for his wife to be buried in. It took 22 years for the structure to be complete, but in 1648 AD, the marvelous Taj Mahal was finished and Mumtaz Mahal’s body was relocated to the royal tomb inside.

The Taj Mahal is one of the biggest wonders of the world, as it is a colossal, symmetrical, white marble mosque dating back to the 17th century. Surrounding the Taj are magnificent gardens and leading up to the structure are two large walkways and a long, reflection pool. Though it is still a mystery who designed the structure, it is known that over 20,000 workers built it. Its pure beauty and historical reputation for true love are what make the Taj Mahal a young traveler’s dream destination.

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain


Designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, La Sagrada Familia’s remarkable frame is as majestic as it is massive. This architectural masterpiece is deservingly the most visited monument in Spain, displaying four sides of complex stonework and hand-painted brilliance. The cathedral has two sides that are all-but-complete–the Nativity Façade and the Passion Façade–which visitors from all over the world come to admire. The Nativity Façade, built by Antoni Gaudi from 1882 up until his death in 1926, is made of four enormous bell towers and the portico. The portico is composed of three sections, each representing the Christian virtues faith, hope and charity. The Passion Façade was recently constructed and is equally incredible, representing the passion and death of Jesus Christ.

Though the exterior of the cathedral is what most young travelers come to see, the interior is even more breath taking. The stained glass windows cast shards of florescent blue, green, orange and red light onto the alter and the ceiling is composed of tree-shaped stone, making the acoustics come alive.

The Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France


Only 10 miles southwest of Paris is the Palace of Versailles. This UNESCO World Heritage site was initially built in 1631 as a chateau hunting lodge for King Louis XIII. When King Louis XIV took over the kingdom in 1682, he transformed the small chateau into the enormous royal palace that it is today. The Palace encompasses north and south wings, an ornately decorated grand hall (The Hall of Mirrors), the King’s grand apartments, gold-plated dining halls and rooms filled with extraordinary French art; the palace truly embodies everything rich, precious and exquisite. Placed directly behind the palace is a maze of perfectly-kept gardens, with majestic sculptures, fountains and ponds. The allure of the palace’s rich history and opulent features entices young travelers to delve into old French royalty and walk the palace halls like Marie-Antoinette.

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The Alhambra, Granada, Spain

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The Alhambra is Granada’s most famous work of Islamic architecture and most visited tourist attraction. The medieval palace was born in 889AD when a small military fortress was built atop hill al-Sabika on Roman ruins. It wasn’t until the 13th century, when moorish emir Mohammed ben Al-hamar arrived, that the fortress was reconstructed into the royal palace that remains today. The Alhambra is complied of 5 major sections, each of which are unique in form and beauty.

The Nasrid Palace is the hardest section to get tickets for and is made up of three independent areas: the Mexuar, the Comares Palace and the Palace of the Lions. To get tickets for the Nasrid Palace, tourists must wait in line early in the morning or reserve tickets months before their arrival date. The Medina is the second section of the Alhambra and is a citadel with public baths, ovens, workshops and silos. The Medina was home to top government officials, court servants and employees. Alcazaba is the third section and is an old military area that contains a large watchtower. The views from the watchtower are incredible–as it’s possible to see the entire city of Granada, as well as the Sierra Nevada mountains. Generalife is the fourth section of the Alhambra and is a gorgeous villa surrounded by colorful gardens and orchards. The last section of the Alhambra is the Palace of Charles V, which is a small, white palace that is free and open to the public year round.

The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California


Straddling 1.7 miles of the misty Golden Gate straight, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the seven wonders of the modern world. The record-breaking suspension bridge was designed by Joseph Baerman Strauss to brave the elements–as it was built during extreme fog, blistery winds and rough tides. Luckily, it only took four years to complete the bridge and connect San Francisco to Marion County.

The Golden Gate Bridge was the first of its kind, allowing 5 lanes of traffic, as well as pedestrians and bicyclists, to pass beneath its strong, wide suspensions. Nevertheless, it’s not the immensity of the bridge that makes it so iconic; instead, it’s the beauty of its hand-painted, orange frame against California’s rocky waters and blue skies. Tourists line up on either side of the bridge to get a once-in-a-lifetime snapshot of this excellent work of architecture.

The Palace of Westminster


Perched on the bank of the Thames, the Palace of Westminster symbolizes Great Britain’s past, present and future. The story of the palace begins with the Old Palace–a medieval fortress built by William II in 1097. The Old Palace was home to decades of royal Kings, Queens, Princes and Princesses, up until the year 1500 when it became the meeting place for Great Britain’s Courts of Law and later the British Parliament.

Though the Old Palace’s medieval presence is still alive in today’s modern structure, the Old Palace is not the palace that exists at present. Destroyed by a fire in 1837, the Old Palace was replaced by the New Palace–a massive structure encompassing 1,100 rooms, 2 courtyards and the magnificent Big Ben clock tower. Architect Sir Charles Barry was the creator of the New Palace, and though he died before the palace was complete, he’d be pleased to know that his architecture is London’s most famous icon and that Big Ben has been stealing the hearts of young travelers since 1859.

Burj Al Arab, Dubai, United Arab Emirates


The Burj Al Arab is a stunning hotel, a symbol of modern Dubai and an architectural feat. Built from 1994 to 1999, the Burj Al Arab is the third tallest hotel in the world and possibly the most luxurious hotel ever. The gleaming structure stands on an artificial island off of the coast of Dubai, and looks like a giant glass sail. The building was designed by consultancy group, Atkins, and was led by head designer Tom Wright. It took over 2,000 construction workers and five years to create the building, but it was definitely worth the effort.

Today, the Burj Al Arab hotel is known as the only 7-star hotel in the world–with incredibly lavish rooms, restaurants and accommodations. Though young travelers don’t typically stay in the hotel (costs are up to 30,000$ a night), people come from across the world to get a glance of the sail-shaped masterpiece.

Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia


The Sydney Opera House is Australia’s most distinctive work of architecture and most visited landmark. The planning of the Opera House began in the 1940s, when Eugene Goossens, the Director of the NSW State Conservatorium of Music, decided that Australia needed a larger venue for theater. Years later, in 1955, Goossens held an international design competition with more than 230 contestants from 32 different countries. Danish architect, Jorn Utzon, came out on top. With no time to waste, construction began in 1958 and was completed in 3 stages. The first stage was the upper podium; the second, the two outer shells; and the third, the interior design and construction. Fifteen years and 102 Million dollars later, the expressionist building encompassed a concert hall, two theatres, a studio, an outdoor forecourt, a recording studio, a playhouse, a party venue, bars, restaurants, retail stores and cafes.

The Sydney Opera House is a one-of-a-kind, multi-venue performing arts center that provides tourists with endless activity. It’s no wonder that 1.2 million travelers visit the Opera House every year.

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The secret of anti-terror architecture: Your city is probably safer than you realize

No one wants to live behind barricades and barbed wire, but everyone wants to feel safe, particularly in the wake of horrifying, unforeseeable massacres like last week’s July 14 truck attack in Nice, France. The problem is that erecting fortress-like protections is, in a way, giving into terror—it allows fear to dictate how we live.

But what if cities could be secured against terror, without looking like war zones? Yours might be, already.

“There are really effective methods to stop lorry attacks and to protect public spaces,” wrote Dominic Casciani for the BBC following last week’s attack. “The US, Israel and the UK are among the nations that have led the thinking on protecting public spaces with the development of measures ranging from in-your-face massive barriers to incredibly subtle changes in the street scene that you and I would barely notice.”

Wall Street Security Project by Rogers Marvel Architects

Since the 2001 terror attacks of September 11, urban planners and architects have learned to negotiate between aesthetics and public safety, creating double-duty structures that secure a city without changing its character. One such ingenious protective detail is the humble bollard.

“When I heard about the Nice attacks, I thought to myself, where were the bollards?,” says California-based photographer Andrew Choate to Quartz. Choate has compiled a diverse collection of bollards.


A bollard is typically a short metal post used to direct traffic or secure certain areas on the street. Originally found in shipyards and docks for securing mooring boats in the 18th century, the most common shape of modern bollards came from their maritime history—the ubiquitous domed top references old-fashioned canon balls.

“Crash- and attack-resistant bollards” are required for all US military and governmental buildings, and can be seen in this outline by the US National Institute of Building Sciences. The US Department of State’s “anti-ram vehicle list” also lists several types of bollards to protect the perimeter of its embassies abroad. Some bollards are capable of stopping vehicles traveling up to 50mph (80 Km/h).

As Choate shows with the hundreds of examples he’s photographed, bollards today can also take all kinds of shapes, and they’re everywhere—streets, airports, government buildings, highways and side streets. Part of the US visual landscape for decades, most of us don’t even realize they’re there for our safety.


When New York City planners were looking to improve security around New York’s Financial District, they turned to the firm Rogers Partners Architects+Urban Designers, who replaced the “menacing metal barriers” with custom-designed faceted bronze bollards called “No Go.” Described by the Chicago Tribune as “a sparkling example of humanistic, multidimensional security planning,” the large sculptural objects became a friendly place for Manhattan co-workers to gather outdoors.

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Off-the-shelf security bollards frequently take the form of flower planters that add greenery to a building’s perimeter. As the US Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests, these types of barriers work as “streetscape enhancement and public realm beautification, rather than as a separate or redundant system of components whose only purpose is security.”


These days there are all too many questionable architecture projects where pure aesthetics drive decisions-making. But perhaps in no other urban planning project does designing for beauty become more essential at a time when we’re besieged with the ugliness of terrorism, with troubling regularity.

As Ruth Reed, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects wrote to introduce to the organization’s 2010 counter-terrorism design guidelines: “It is important that our built environment continues to reflect that we are an open and inclusive society, and that in interpreting these new requirements our buildings do not convey that we are driven by security measures.”

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After the Games, Rio’s Stadiums Won’t Rot—They’ll Transform

THE OLYMPIC GAMES are notorious for leaving burdensome buildings in their wake. Much of the swooping Olympic Park in Athens lies rusting and underutilized. Beijing National Stadium—or the Bird’s Nest, that iconic architectural marvel of the 2008 Games—draws tourists, occasional soccer matches, and little else.


Nearly every city that’s hosted an olympiad lives with a white elephant. This never reflects well on the Games, and the International Olympic Committee has in recent years directed organizers and host cities to be cognizant of “legacy mode”—what happens after crowds disperse, athletes leave, and the torch extinguishes. London offered a glimpse of this approach with the 2012 Games, which featured several easily dismantled stadia. Rio goes further still with structures that can be removed, rebuilt, and repurposed. Mayor Eduardo Paes calls it “nomadic architecture.”


Future Arena, the handball venue, will provide the material to build four 500-student primary schools in the city’s Jacarepaguá neighborhood. Workers will disassemble Olympics Aquatics Stadium and use the components to erect two community swimming centers; one in Madureira Park and one in the Campo Grande area. The International Broadcast Centre will become a high school dormitory. And Barra Olympic Park—a 300-acre, triangular peninsula that features nine Olympic venues—will host public parks and private development after the Games.


“It’s based around not leaving white elephants,” said Bill Hanway of AECOM, which created the master plan for the olympic parks in London and Rio. “We’re at a stage in the Olympics where social and financial responsibility are much more important than they used to be.”

Such an approach is vital, he says, because most venues that host sporting events after the Games often have twice the capacity they need. Some of them aren’t needed at all, and sit vacant.


The trick, Hanway says, is using prefabricated, modular parts—a decades-old technique enjoying renewed interest because it is cheaper, faster, and more sustainable than conventional methods. Advances in materials and techniques have made modular structures lighter, stronger, and more weathertight than before. Rio’s nomadic venues feature puzzle-like compositions of shared components—standardized steel columns and beams, modular steel panels, concrete slabs, and event-specific elements like seating bowls, playing surfaces, and water tubs. After the Games end on August 21, crews will disassemble these structures, haul them to new locations, and reconfigure them.

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The $38 million Olympics Aquatics Stadium, which features natural cooling and seating for 20,000 people, will be broken down to create two smaller pools beyond Olympic park. The challenge is disassembling and reassembling the enormous fiberglass tubs. Future Arena will come down much like it went up, and key components used to build four schools. Its lacy facade will become sunshades and rain screens, and its concrete ramps will provide wheelchair access.


The broadcast center’s steel frame will provide the framework for the dormitory at a high school for gifted athletes at the Barra Olympic Park. The 18,250 seats filling the Olympic Tennis Centre will be reused elsewhere, as will much of the main souvenir shop.

That’s the plan, anyway. Brazil’s deep financial problems and turbulent political atmosphere could slow or scuttle that part of the plan entirely. Still, the idea shows how Olympic infrastructure can be reused.

“I think it’s nothing short of a brilliant way to address building such massive infrastructure,” says Irwin A. Kishner,a partner at Herrick, the New York law firm that worked on Yankee Stadium, the Meadowlands, and Red Bull Arena. “It adds another option to what can be a very wasteful enterprise.”


Of the 30-odd venues at the Games, only Future Arena and the aquatic center are truly nomadic. Beyond those, the tennis and beach volleyball venues will be dismantled. London made greater use of temporary facilities, but much of the sporting infrastructure in Rio—including Olympic Stadium—existed before the olympiad, erected for events like the Pan Am Games and the World Cup.


You could argue that reusing existing venues is the most sustainable approach, especially in a city like Los Angeles—which is highlighting that approach in its bid for the 2024 Games. But Hanway says prefabricated structures that are quickly and easily assembled are perfect for cities that lack the infrastructure needed to host an olympiad. Jeff Keas, a principal at Populous, which designed the London Stadium for the 2012 Games, says temporary buildings can have a carbon footprint half the size of a conventional structure, and can cost 50 to 80 percent less. Building times vary widely, but most temporary buildings go up faster, too. Not having to maintain permanent stadiumscan save millions more.

“We need to build faster, lighter, and more sustainable buildings to face the environmental and socio economic challenges the world faces,” adds Hanway. This is true of all buildings, not just Olympic venues.