Decoding Design

London's temporary Olympic Shooting Venue was designed to make a lasting impact

London's temporary Olympic Shooting Venue was designed to make a lasting impact

Posting in Architecture

The new shooting venue for London 2012 is both temporary and mobile-- designed to leave a lasting (mental) impression, while its physical body will be dismantled and reassembled for continued use.

With the London Summer Olympic Games rapidly approaching, there has been much talk about whether the games are in fact economically good for a city. At its best, hosting an Olympics can help revitalize a city, and at its worst, playing host can leave the host-country drowning in debt.

There are a lot of reasons for this, but one is simply the cost of building new venues, all with a price tag to match their state-of-the-art design. When the athletes and fans pack up and go, the new stadiums and event-specific venues--for example, the Athens Olympics had a venue just for taekwondo-- are often left empty, and unused far before the bill is settled.

In London, there has been a little of everything, from big name high-priced venues to littler, temporary structures. But how do you make a temporary building that still has an architectural impact? Perhaps in an effort to answer this question, London and Berlin-based Magma architecture came up with a design for the Olympic Shooting Gallery that could be dismantled, but that you won't soon forget.

Each of the three galleries were made in a bright white double curved membrane exterior. From the outside, the galleries' PVC facades (they are essentially PVC tents) are covered in bright spots that looks like they belong on the tentacles of an octopus, that function to draw ventilation into each of the venues, while also creating tension nodes for the steel structure beneath its white exterior. The spots that meet the ground become the entrances to the galleries,  and the semitransparent facades on two of the three ranges reduce the need for artificial lighting.

PVC, when stretched this way, helps to prevent such inconveniences as flapping in the wind, or any sort of flimsiness.

The designers see shooting as "a sport in which the results and progress of the competition are hardly visible to the eye of the spectator." Therefore, "the design of the shooting venue was driven by the desire to evoke an experience of flow and precision inherent in the shooting sport through the dynamically curving space."

The Olympic Shooting Venue is not located in London's shiny-new Olympic Park, but instead in London's historic Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, and will be home to the events in 10, 25, and 50 meter Sport Shooting. The 3,800 seats are divided between two partially enclosed ranges for the qualifying rounds and one fully enclosed finals range, forming a "campus" on the field, creating a conversation between the historic barracks and their contemporary counterparts.

The structures will be dismantled (easily, according to the architects) and immediately make the trip north to Glasgow for the 2014 Commonwealth games. All materials will be reused or recycled.

It's the mobility of the venue that makes it stand out as a different way of seeing event-specific architecture. All of the galleries are fully mobile, with every joint designed so it can be dismantled and reassembled, with no composite or adhesive materials used.

The way that the bright and modern design will contrast with its surroundings is sure to leave a lasting impression on visitors and locals, even when the structure itself has moved on. For more photos, click here.

It is estimated that the shooting galleries will host more than 100,000 spectators during competition, and for those tuning in, the first Gold Medal for the London Olympic Games will be awarded at the gallery for the Women's 10 meter Air Pistol on July 28.

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Images: Magma

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Beth Carter

Contributing Editor

Beth Carter is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has worked for Catalyst magazine, the New York Times Syndicate, BBC Travel and Wired. She holds degrees from the University of Oregon and New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure