Work Begins On Olympic Aquatics Centre

Dean Nicholas
By Dean Nicholas Last edited 126 months ago
Work Begins On Olympic Aquatics Centre

With the flood of recriminations about its cost and suitability yet to subside, work begins today on the aquatics centre at the Stratford Olympic site. Despite final blueprints yet to be agreed, concrete piles for the building's foundations are being installed, nearly two months ahead of schedule.

The centre, with its distinctive sloping roof, has gone from being the darling of the design community to a metaphor for Olympian overspend, an initial projected cost of £75m swelling to £300m in just three years - all before a spade was dug in anger.

Despite the early start, the Olympics Delivery Authority stresses that there are no concerns about finishing on time, and the 17,500-seater venue, which will host swimming, diving and water polo events, should be complete by 2011. Diver and Olympic hopeful Jessica Williams blogs here on the importance of having such great facilities to practice on in her efforts to make Team GB.

The centre is the first major project by Zaha Hadid in her adopted hometown, and the architect will be consulted about any redesigns necessitated by time or budgetary constraints. We can't help feel this is not the most auspicious start for the Pritzker prize-winning architect whose sensuous, idiosyncratic designs have often sparked virulent (and largely unfair) criticism, most notoriously by The Sun which ran a vicious campaign against her a decade ago when her winning design for Cardiff's Opera House was abandoned for being "elitist".

Arguably the sole building of genuine class planned for the Games (contrast that with the stunning architecture Beijing has produced), it's to be hoped that in time the aquatics centre will be a fitting icon of redeveloped post-2012 east London, and not a cash sinkhole synonymous with a city-bankrupting Olympics.

See an image gallery of the aquatics centre here

Image courtesy of AK Foto's Flickrstream via the Londonist pool

Last Updated 18 July 2008