Molding the waves

According to the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, compiled by the project engineers, the Olympic Aquatic Centre was inspired by “the fluid geometry of water in motion.” Thus, the entire roof is shaped like an immense undulating wave floating on top of the structure.

London Olympic Aquatic Centre outsideIn order to make this shape possible, the architects used over 150,000 tons of reinforced concrete in the building foundations and the superstructure. Most of the building is composed of exposed precast concrete manufactured by Bell & Webster Concrete in Lincolnshire, England.

To increase the environmental friendliness of the concrete, the team replaced 70 percent of the substructure and 40 percent of the superstructure was replaced with ground granulated blast-furnace slag (GGBS), a by-product of furnaces used to make iron, which emits less carbon dioxide.

The environmentally friendly GGBS concrete mixture is not an FRP composite mixture; however the use of the new material on such a large scale was a bold statement for Hadid and a good example for architects to use modern reinforced concrete to create new shapes. It should be noted that Hadid has used carbon fiber reinforced concrete (CFRC) panels in a few buildings she completed after the Aquatic Centre – like the ROCA London Gallery and Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre – which are equally complex designs.