The 5 Ugliest Olympic Structures

by Mayra Hartmann

Being a creative member of the team and going with the spirit of the Top 5 Best Structures for the London 2012 Olympic Games, I thought I’d switch things up and review the 5 Ugliest Olympic Structures. So, welcome to Future Cape Town’s countdown of the 5 Ugliest Olympic Structures.

1. The Orbit

Standing at 115m this work of public “art” by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond, is indisputably thought provoking, what is the disputable is the kind of thoughts. London’s tallest public art piece was said, by the artists, to be inspired by Eiffel, Tatlin and the Tower of Babel. To liken this combination of sculpture and structural engineering, to icons such as the Eiffel Tower is, to say the least, disrespectful. By locals it has been called “the reason why collaborations aren’t always a good idea”, and I’m unsure of the legacy and inspirations it’s supposed to leave behind, particularly considering the hoped impact on the Stratford Community. I guess that’s the thing with art…

2. The International Broadcast Center

Considering this building is 1 of the 7 permanent Olympic structures one would have hoped that the designers would have come up with more than a box. With this one, it’s definitely function over form. The centre boasts an impressive array of communications equipment, and is the first time all media teams will be reporting from the same venue; or so it’s said I did see AlJazeera setting up camp along the Thames Southbank.

3. Copper Box

The Copper Box is one of the disputable buildings. It looks great in setting sunlight but other than that it falls flat of architectural beauty. I personally appreciate the effort put into creating a sustainable building, so I’ll go easy on this one. The ceiling was designed to allow the flow of natural light into the arena, there is a rainwater harvesting system, the exterior is clad with recycled Copper and although it will be mainly used for Handball games during the Olympics the interior is flexible and so its uses diverse.

4. and 5.  Stratford Centre and Westfield Stratford City

I know we said Top 5, but this last one is a bit of a handful. Starting with the centre itself – a shopping mall built in the 70s, it boasts all the architectural features of the time, and although there have been attempts at revamping it, it doesn’t seem to have ever shaken of the 70s look; but let bygones be bygones. What does bother me is how the revamps and expansion, said to be for the Stratford community seem to be falling somewhat short, as many short-sighted endeavours would. Stratford is one of London’s poorer boroughs and due to its history rife with large industrial parks. It has been identified as a major centre in London’s strategic development plan.

The entire Stratford City development is set to generate 10000 permanent jobs of which about 2000 will go to locals. It also sues. Let’s face it London is not hosting the Olympics for the people of Stratford and simply plonking a mall and sports fields won’t solve the areas problems. If however, the Olympic Village can be truly integrated into its surroundings and if some of the venues become available for community activities the urban developers might have something there. The ideas are good, but we have seen these ideas not implemented quite as successfully, right in front of our noses even.


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