The London Olympic Shooting Venue was a series of three temporary, demountable structures designed by magma architecture. The buildings were made from a white, phthalate-free pvc membrane with brightly coloured circular punctures. The project was executed differently to previous Olympic shooting venues due to the location and sustainable parameters set up by the Olympic Administration.
Concept & Design
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. All three ranges are configured in a crisp, white double curved membrane façade studded with vibrantly coloured openings. As well as animating the facade these dots operated as tensioning nodes, ventilation openings and doorways at ground level.
The buildings are split into two partially enclosed ranges for the 25m and 10/50m qualifying pavilions, along with a fully enclosed finals arena.
Each of the membrane covered pavilions was divided from the field of play on the firing line. Each field of play was surrounded by plywood clad walls, left raw internally and painted out white on the exterior.
The pavilions were constructed with modular, standardised, steel-truss frames. However the trusses were joined using bespoke connection pieces to create long column-free spaces, providing visitors good sight lines for the games.
The location and orientation of the ranges was determined by the Olympic Administration during pre-planning, with the orientation set North for the athletes to have the best lighting during play. However, once the media requirements came through changes needed to be made as they would be filming into the sun. Because of this the third structure was rotated and enclosed, then requiring planning permission.
Throughout the design phases, a new government was appointed and they implemented budget constraints, Magma Architecture were able to solve this problem by combining the 10m and 50m ranges without compromising on the integrity of the overall design.
But there was constant scrutiny over budgets and the design was continually questioned to ensure that all decisions were reflective of technical requirements and not purely aesthetic. Magma Architecture's design was airtight in the technical and aesthetic reasoning to guarantee approval.
To gain insight into the design requirements for shooting range architecture, Magma Architecture visited the World Cup finals held in Munich and the Beijing Olympic shooting venue.
The site for the Beijing Olympics was built 3-4 hours out of the city and it is currently not used. Highlighting the potential waste of a building once the games are over. Although the buildings may be used occasionally for training or World Cup finals, more often than not they sit disused. Also taking into account that these large buildings require financing to maintain, Magma Architecture aimed to propose a venue that would alleviate the waste of these left over spaces.
Traditionally Olympic shooting ranges are located hours away from the main venue and Olympic village, which segregates the sport from the normal activity and atmosphere. However the site designated for the London shooting venue was the old Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, which was a disused army training site. This location in central London, just south of the Thames, was only a short distance from the main arenas and easily accessed by public transport. This meant more spectators could be involved than other Olympics, creating a different environment during these games.
An additional feature of this venue was its temporality, once the games were over and the structures disassembled, it created a new left-over space in Central London available for reuse.
The Temporary – Reduce, re-use and recycle
The London Olympics had more temporary structures than any other Olympics to date, the theme being ‘Reduce, re-use, recycle’.
Magma Architecture's proposal included demountable, mobile pavilions, this being a factor in the approval of new shooting ranges. Each structure was intended to be built rapidly but easily stored and transported for future use. This entailed every joint and fixing to be designed for reassembly; and there was no composite materials or adhesives used.
One issue to emerge was the future use of the structures, despite discussions for them to be reused for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, nothing was finalised during the construction phase, which can cause problems for their later use.
The Olympic theme of ‘Reduce, reuse, recycle’, was expressed in other details as well, interestingly the steel trusses that supported the membrane design was reused from Madonna’s ‘Sweet and Sticky’ tour.
Some other details where the sustainable theme could be seen is in the material choices, because of the use of a translucent membrane and that the sport needs to played during the day, there were savings on the use of lighting. Additionally, concrete was only required for the athlete’s platform. This was to meet a standard established in the game’s rulebook, adhering to a level of stability for the players.
There are many details to consider when designing an Olympic sporting venue, particularly a sport such as shooting which is effectively invisible to the naked eye.
What technically happens when the shots are fired is calculated by sound - the spectators then watch a digital relay based on this, so essentially they are watching a screen. All spectators must sit behind the athletes due to the possibility of fly bullets. This immensely affects the overall design and end product. It also causes implications for capacity; the London Olympics had a total seating capacity of 3800 split between the different pavilions.
Every detail had to be exact, as the rule book for the sport states that the construction could be no excuse for variables between players. Throughout this process however, the sport itself has been undergoing constant changes as they amalgamate the differing national rules. The constraints that needed deep consideration included flooring, wind, sun, field of play (conduits) and orientation. Because a major part of the sport involves gauging wind speed and direction, there was substantial consideration put into the openings and wind interference. Ensuring each player was equal to all other players.
Because the 10m and 50m structures were combined, it became an adaptable space. A key problem being that 10m shooting is done with air guns, meaning it must happen in an enclosed space because the wind tampers with the shots. Whereas the 50m range occurs in the open air, the space then needed to have an operable roof component.
Magma Architecture consulted with a ballistics specialist to ensure the design met safety standards. They also consulted with terror experts because of the use of guns combined with large crowds.
All surfaces were required to absorb the bullets with no rebounds; this meant there was to be no metal inside the range. The result was the timber clad interior, including baffles and specially designed timber door handles, all to absorb the bullets and stop any ricochets. Also, all the doors had to open inwards, despite fire, health and safety regulations.
Risk calculations were carried out from where the shooters stand to ensure there could be no fly bullets. From the concrete shooting platform there was no visible sky, meaning it was not possible to accidentally shoot in the air. These calculations were exacting down to 0.5m.