One of the four permanent venues in the London Olympic Park, the velodrome was one of the last to be commissioned, and the first to be completed on time and on budget. Unveiled in February, the sinuous velodrome was chosen to represent London's claim for the "greenest games ever," because of its sustainability and efficiency initiatives. Inspired by lightweight and streamlined racing bikes, the Hopkins Architects-designed velodrome will provide a venue for the indoor track cycling events at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The velodrome seats 6,000 people, with a concrete lower tier of 3,500 seats and a further 2,500 seats suspended in two upper tiers, allowing a 360-degree view of the concourse. Full-height windows split the tiers, and allow views both into the concourse and out over the city skyline and Olympic park. The main cladding is western red cedar timber, drawing comparison with the timber concourse of sustainably-sourced Siberian pine.
The track and surrounding architecture has been carefully designed to create the world's fastest cycling track, incorporating the best crowd atmosphere with the least noise variations and distractions, and with careful reference to specific temperature and environmental conditions.
The Olympic Delivery Authority set out a number of sustainability and material targets in its brief, requirements that Hopkins has either met or exceeded. Roof skylights allow natural light during the day, reducing the need for artificial light. Natural ventilation and cooling is achieved through perforations in the external timber cladding of the venue, and offer reduced carbon emissions. Designed to reflect the geometry of the cycling track, the distinctive roof uses a lightweight double curving cable net structure made from steel, which will deflect the summer sun and further reduce the need for air conditioning. The roof also collects rainwater which is reused and recycled, increasing water efficiency in combination with other water saving fittings.
The concept was inspired by cycling itself, and Hopkins wanted the design to be lightweight and efficient to reflect this. In a press statement, the company stated:
The bike is an ingenious ergonomic object, honed to unrivaled efficiency; we wanted the same application of design creativity and engineering rigor that goes into the design and manufacture of the bike to manifest itself in the building. Not as a mimicry of the bicycle but as a three-dimensional response to the functional requirements of the venue whose distinctive form has emerged from an integrated design team approach which focused on the performance and efficiency of every aspect of the building.
The velodrome will see five events for men and five for women, with 10 gold medalists; the Sprint, Team Sprint, Keirin, Team Pursuit, and The Omnium. Over six days, 188 riders will compete in the track cycling competition.
The facility was built with two phases in mind: the Olympic venue, and the legacy venue. After the events, the legacy Velodrome will incorporate a road cycle circuit, mountain bike course, café, bike hire and cycle workshop facilities. It will become the Lee Valley VeloPark, for use by elite athletes and the local community. Owned and operated by Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, it is hoped it will launch London as a new cycling center for the world.
Wood that was not used in the final construction will have a new use in the construction of a 30-foot (9-meter) sea-faring boat, as part of The Boat Project – a collaborative initiative funded by the Arts Council between the arts company Lone Twin, Olympic silver medalist Mark Covell and international boat designer Simon Rogers.
Construction of the London 2012 VeloPark was a collaboration between Expedition Engineering, BDSP and Grant Associates. Other Olympic venues and ideas are still in the planning and construction phase.