A year ago, when AECOM won the bid to master plan the main site of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the proposed development plot was just a disused Formula 1 race circuit. Today, with three years to go until the finishing deadline it’s, well… it’s still covered with an old F1 track.
Time was always going to be an issue in this project as they do things with a different sense of urgency in Brazil. AECOM, being already involved in a number of urban regeneration projects in Brazil, was aware of this and used it to its advantage when bidding for the master planning. The practice, which has been closely involved in London 2012 (see page 48), decided to design all the venues as well.
‘It didn’t work master planning with just boxes for the stadia,’ says AECOM principal Graham Goymour. ‘We needed resolution of the spaces around the venues and time was definitely a factor – the Games were close enough that we saw the benefit of going to the next level. We felt we’d prequalified with a lot of the work we’d done on London 2012. There are a lot of differences but quite a few similarities. We knew about all of the operational demands that are required.’
For the bid AECOM’s sports architects also involved local partner DG Architects, plus Barcelona aquatic specialist Pujol – the architecture practice rather than the bewigged Barça centre-back – and the UK’s Wilkinson Eyre for the combined basketball, fencing, wrestling and judo, and handball arenas. The handball has been split away from the original group and was going to be the transplanted basketball arena from London, which was also designed by Wilkinson Eyre, but at the time of writing that deal had fallen through.
Like London, legacy is a large part of the 2016 project. Essentially it breaks into two parts. First, the main venues will form a permanent Olympic training centre after the Games that, unlike London, ‘has to work as one cohesive site,’ says Goymour. The second part is mostly about housing and commercial space (AECOM’s competition entry also proposed a school to be built near a bordering favela and the redevelopment of the international press building as a college). ‘A lot of money in a project like this goes into putting in the utilities, and we wanted at least 70 per cent of the infrastructure to be used afterwards,’ explains Goymour.
But mostly it’s about housing and it’s here that the real difference with London is highlighted. In a nutshell, the whole thing is private, being put together by the landowner and developers. The developers build the Olympic site and their pay-off is being allowed to redevelop the land into housing afterwards (Rio has the highest property prices in Brazil). Post-Olympics will see a mix of medium-density, low- to medium-rise buildings and a few high-rises, numbering around 6,500 units in total.
But first an Olympics site has to be built. Key to the scheme is the central waving spine that moves people around the site, in and out of the venues and up over the operational routes.Pretty much everyone will arrive at the top of the spine by bus, as there are no rail links. ‘The Olympic Way will handle around 40,000 people an hour,’ says Goymour, and it was subjected to a great deal of crowd-modelling software as ‘control of people is quite dynamic throughout the event, changing from one venue to another’.As well as addressing ingress and exit to the venues, the shape of the spine ‘creates these eddies of space that will be landscaped, have shade, and provide space for concessions,’ adds Goymour.
At the end of the spine is a circular viewing park with screens to watch live events. After the Games this will become a mangrove park with raised walkways, and quite a lot of the lagoon frontage will be turned over to public space in the final redevelopment. All they have
to do now is build it.