The architectural concept of the London Aquatics Centre is inspired by the fluid geometry of water in motion, creating spaces and a surrounding environment in sympathy with the river landscape of the Olympic Park. An undulating roof sweeps up from the ground as a wave – enclosing the pools of the Centre with its unifying gesture of fluidity, whilst also describing the volume of the swimming and diving pools.
The London Aquatics Centre is designed to have the flexibility to accommodate the size and capacity of the London 2012 Olympic Games whilst also providing the optimum size and capacity for use in Legacy mode after the 2012 Games.
The London Aquatics Centre is located at the south eastern edge of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on the new Stratford City Bridge giving pedestrian access to the park from the new Stratford City development and public transportation.
The Aquatics Centre is planned on an orthogonal axis perpendicular to the Stratford City Bridge. Along this axis are laid out the three pools. The training pool is located under the bridge whilst the competition and diving pools are within a large volumetric pool hall. The overall strategy is to frame the base of the pool hall as a podium by surrounding it and connecting it into the bridge.
This podium element allows for the containment of a variety of differentiated and cellular programmatic elements into a single architectural volume which is seen to be completely assimilated with the bridge and the landscape. The podium emerges from the bridge to cascade around the pool hall to the lower level of the canal.
The pool hall is expressed above the podium level by a large roof which arches along the same axis as the pools. Its form is generated by the sightlines for the spectators during the Olympic mode. Double-curvature geometry has been used to create a structure of parabolic arches that define its form. The roof undulates to differentiate the volumes of the competition and diving pools, and extends beyond the pool hall envelope to cover the external areas of the podium and entrance on the bridge.
The roof structure is grounded at three points of the centre (two points at the northwest end on the bridge; and one single point to the south east end). This structural arrangement ensured 7,500 temporary spectator seats could be installed along either side of the pools in Olympic mode (total 15,000 temporary seats) with no structural obstructions. After the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, this temporary seating has been removed and replaced with glazing panels, leaving a capacity of 2,500 seats for community use and future national/international events, with a significantly reduced pool hall volume.
Structural Steel Design Awards 2010
Ventilation + Heat recovery
Innovative cooling system
High efficient façade
Biomass heating systems
District heating scheme
Water-saving sanitary appliances
Sustainable building materials
Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems
The London Aquatics Centre was designed with long-term community use in mind and, thus, both sustainability and cost-effective operation were design priorities. Crucially, the design team focused on designing sustainability into the building rather than bolting it on at the end. We made extensive use of measures to maximise energy efficiency, including high levels of insulation and envelope air tightness, low velocity ventilation systems with high efficiency heat recovery, and water based heating systems with variable speed pumps. An Ammonia chiller plant provides space cooling and-uses rejected heat for pool water heating.
The main pool hall is naturally lit, the pool tanks are insulated, and an adaptable environmental control system allows ventilation to be customised within specific areas of the large volume space. This gives the building’s operators the option of avoiding excessive use of mechanical ventilation in areas where it isn’t needed. Our as built Part L modelling indicates that the building, which is connected to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s district heating and power system, meets the ODA’s original target of Olympic venues achieving a 50% carbon emissions reduction against Building Regulations (2006).
We substantially reduced the carbon footprint of the London Aquatics Centre by primarily using secondary aggregates and cement replacement material – in essence, recycled rather than ‘new’ concrete. We were the first team designing 2012 Olympic venues to push beyond the standard supplier offering of 50% coarse aggregate substitution. In the end, more than 75% secondary aggregates were used in some concrete mixes to offset limestone aggregates used for the pool tank. We exceeded targets set by the ODA, with concrete contributing just 3% to the building’s carbon footprint. We were awarded a BREEAM Innovation Credit for our use of concrete mixes.
We also gave careful consideration to construction impacts and prioritised re-use of materials. Instead of bespoke welded sections, which are harder to re-use, our design for the temporary stands used standard sections with bolted connections. This allowed for easier dismantling and re-use. Proof of the recyclability of Olympic phase components was demonstrated recently with news that a training centre for teenagers will be built using dismantled seating tiers from the London Aquatics Centre’s Olympic phase temporary stands.
To reduce the building’s potable water demand by more than 40% (against standard designs), we developed a system that uses backwash water from the swimming pool filtration plant to flush urinals and toilets. Further savings were achieved via low-flow sanitary fittings. With greatest demand for potable water coming from showering, incorporating low-flow showers and basins delivered 35% potable water saving. Rainwater harvesting was also incorporated into the design, with harvested water used to irrigate the green wall at the southern end of the building.
Arguably the single largest sustainable aspect of the project is the design and build of the venue based on its Legacy requirements and adapting it on a temporary basis for the 2012 Olympic Games. The Legacy venue design is focused on usage of the three pools as a community and elite training swimming facility where spectator seating is 2,500 seats whilst the Olympic venue increased the venue seating capacity on a temporary basis to become a 17,500 seating venue sufficient for the 2012 Games. The benefits are manifold. There are the social benefits of building a permanent venue for long term community requirements.
There is a long term benefit to running costs, energy consumption and maintenance benefits in managing a smaller venue based on Legacy rather than Olympic requirements. There was a benefit in the quantities of construction materials used to build half of the Olympic venue as a temporary construction.
365.40 KW/m² (115.831 KBtu/ft²)
Annual carbon footprint:
53.60 KgCO2m² (576.946 KgCO2/ft²)
Min. temperature =
Max temperature =
No product info available
Olympic Delivery Authority
Zaha Hadid Architects
Access = Design
Building services engineer:
Ove Arup & Partners
Green certification consultant:
Robert-Jan Van Santen Associates
Ove Arup & Partners
Finnforest Merk GmbH , Morrisroe
No other project by team
Sports and Leisure
BREEAM 2008 UK Bespoke Excellent