There's a buzzword at the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, and it has nothing to do with Wenlock, the games' shiny, one-eyed mascot. "Legacy" is the word on the tip of everybody's tongue: From the 618-acre Olympic Park, set to become a focal point in the regeneration of its East London neighborhood, to new housing, transportation links, and utility infrastructure, the Olympic organizers hope that the massive development for the games will bring about a lasting physical and social transformation in London.
The lighting strategy was no different. It had to meet the Olympic Park's games-time needs—creating a positive experience for visitors while also minimizing costs, energy consumption, and environmental effect. And it also had to account for the site's future as a central urban parkland.
"Inevitably, the specifications for safety and security during an event in which there will be tens of thousands of visitors in the park are different than what you'd expect to find in a typical London parkland in the future," says Mark Major, director and founding partner of Speirs + Major, the firm appointed as lighting design advisers to the Olympic Development Authority, in prepared comments. "To that end, we followed the ODA's approach of planning games and legacy in tandem to ensure that high-quality and safe lighting would be procured in a form appropriate for the future."
Architects and lighting designers for the new Olympic venues brought that philosophy to each project. Architect Populous's design for the Olympic Stadium venue, for example, includes a demountable upper tier that allows the stadium to be reduced from a capacity of 80,000 during the games to 25,000 for future use.
"We took it on with the motto that we would embrace the temporary," says Mark Craine, the firm's associate principal. Spectator lighting inside the stadium will be kept low to maintain the powerful effect of the fabric wrap that dresses the stadium's exterior. Sports lighting will be installed on 14 30-meter-tall (98-foot-tall) towers mounted on the stadium's inner tension ring in order to avoid creating glare for broadcast cameras. "Trying to keep things small and efficient has led to us having to be fairly ingenious about not only the design, but the buildability of the stadium," Craine says.
Populous's approach was just one of the resourceful architectural and lighting strategies used for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in response to the legacy goals. In the pages ahead, we highlight this and eight more sites that will greet visitors from around the world—and which will meet London's needs for the years ahead.