The XXII Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, are said to have cost around US$50 billion, which makes them the most expensive Games to date. The bill includes many new buildings and the first ever Winter Olympic Park, planned by stadium designers Populous, who also created the Fisht stadium, venue for the opening and closing ceremonies. But the lack of big-name architects is noticeable, as is the fact that most of the venues are designed for re-use; some will even be dismantled and moved elsewhere after the Games.

The Fisht Olympic Stadium

The Fisht Olympic stadium, used for the opening and closing ceremonies, is the only structure in the Coastal Cluster (the group of indoor arenas around the Olympic Park and located near the coast) to be completed by an established Western architecture firm, Populous. The company worked with a consortium of Russian design-construction firms including Ingeokom, Mosproekt-4 and Botta Management Group. Named after a nearby mountain peak, the stadium design is a first for such a large-scale building in Russia. The form was meant to resemble the snowy peaks surrounding the Black Sea resort area, but the innovation is in its use of the material EFTE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene).

The material itself has been around for a while; as noted in previously on Gizmag, it was used for the Aqautic Center for the Beijing Olympics. ETFE is a lightweight material that is translucent and gives thermal protection, but lets in a sufficient amount and quality of natural light for grass to grow beneath it. Here the architects spent a lot of time in consultation with engineers to achieve a unique effect. They applied inflatable, "pillow-like" material in sections that resemble fish scales, but were carefully designed to give a cloud-like impression when viewed from inside.

The material also helped to enhance those spectacular lighting effects we saw during the opening ceremony. The tripartite roof structure includes a middle section that will only be used for the Olympic ceremonies and will be removed after the Games. The main level of the stadium is elevated on a landscaped mound so spectators, rather than being enveloped by towering walls, have views over the Olympic park.

Populous was also responsible for the master plan of the Olympic park, the first such park built for a Winter Olympics. After the Games, the Fisht Stadium will be used for Russian and FIFA World Cup football matches, and will host other entertainment events. As such, it was designed with a flexible capacity, which means that it can accommodate crowds of up to 45,000 people, but can also be scaled down internally so that smaller crowds of say 25,000 can enjoy a slightly more intimate atmospheric experience.

The Iceberg Skating Palace

The Iceberg Skating Palace was built by Ingeokom, in cooperation with Mosproekt-4, one of the directing agencies of the Moscow Committee for Architecture. The 12,000-seat venue was designed for training and competition in figure skating and short-track racing, and is one of the more striking buildings of the Sochi games. The building spreads over 20,917 square meters (225,000 square feet) in area.

But it is the sweeping tile-like façade, made from interlocking waves of glass and sandwich panels, that captures one's attention. The solid panels are painted in varying shades of blue, with the shape and color designed to recall the forms of the surrounding Caucasus mountains, as well as the waves of the Black Sea. Although comparisons to a massive wall of ice are also apt. This is a demountable structure, which will most likely be moved to another city after the Olympics.

The Adler Arena Skating Center

Next in the circle going around the Cluster is the Adler Arena Skating Center. This structure was designed to be "crystal-like" with stained glass windows and a band of transparent glass that enables spectators to see out of the building. Cannon Design, the Canadian firm who was responsible for the Richmond Oval of the Vancouver Winter Games, consulted on the interiors with designer-builders Stroy International.

Bob Johnstone of Cannon cites the reflective silver ceiling fabric, which keeps internal temperatures cool, as one of the important features of the venue. The foil-like material has been used on previous ice venues, but not in such a large quantity as here, in this 8,000-seat Arena.

The Ice Cube Curling Center

Completed in 2012, the Ice Cube Curling Center is shaped at one end like a curling stone with a ribbon-like façade, and is, according to the organizers, deliberately "simplistic in its design, which symbolizes democracy, and accessibility."

The structure incorporates 12,000 square meters (129,000 sq ft) of a special "breather membrane" developed by DuPont Tyvek, on the walls and roof. The membrane material is both weather-resistant and porous, protecting against rain, snow and wind, while also allowing moisture vapor to diffuse. The dual effect is designed to aid overall ventilation while cutting down on air-conditioning costs.

The lower-level walls of the Curling Center interior are constructed from insulated glass units with a mirror-like finish to reflect the ice floor. The building is demountable, and will be moved to another Russian city after the Games.

The Bolshoy Ice Dome

The Bolshoy Ice Dome, by design and construction firm Mostovik, is a12,000-seat multi-purpose venue, with a shape that was inspired by a frozen drop of water enclosed by a dome. The roof has a partial metal shell that seems to pour over the translucent section, which includes 38,000 LED lights.

The Dome is also said to resemble a Fabergé egg, with the multi-colored lights mimicking the jewel-encrusted surface of the Fabergé. It covers a 30 x 60-meter (98 x 196-ft) ice rink and, together with the Shayba Arena, is hosting the ice hockey events. The Bolshoy is one of the largest venues and will be used as a multi-purpose entertainment center in the future.

The Shayba Arena

The Shayba Arena was built by the Central Research Institute for Industrial Buildings (CNIIPromzdaniy) and accommodates 7,000 spectators. The venue is hosting Olympic ice hockey competitions and Paralympic ice sledge hockey competitions. "Shayba" is the Russian word for hockey puck, but also echoes a common cheer of "Shaybu" heard often at Russian hockey matches.

The venue will be dismantled and transported for post-Olympic use as an Ice Palace in another Russian city. Both the Bolshoy Ice Dome and the Shayba Arena are operated by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

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